For many who visit the YMCA in downtown Durham, the upcoming loss of the Soul Good Juice Cafe will be a sad experience. But for me, it will be much more than that. Its departure will mark the end of my connection with its owner, my former (and first) boss, and its employees, my former co-workers.

I racked my brain at the beginning of last summer, thinking of all the places in Durham that I’d want to work. Soul Good was right up there at the top of the list. I was really nervous about having my first job, but with some encouragement from my mom, I approached Judy Carroll, the owner of Soul Good, about any employment opportunities. She said she could use some help over the summer. Just basic tasks–wiping down tables, cleaning dishes, making smoothies. And boy, did I make some smoothies.

Anyone who’s had a smoothie from Soul Good should know what I’m talking about. Sweet frozen fruit, sorbet, ice and whatever energy-booster you need to wake up before or after a workout. They’re just as fun to make as they are to drink. However, how to make smoothies wasn’t all that I learned working at Soul Good. I can distinctly remember Tommysine, Judy’s sister, laughing when I had to call my mom to get my Social Security number. She jokingly told me that I needed to have it memorized next time I filled out a tax form for an employer, just in case they wouldn’t let me call my mom. My parents were scared Judy would fire me when I showed up with a mohawk, but she just shrugged it off. “Kids just have to do their own thing,” she told me.

That’s how things were at Soul Good. Sometimes situations were very relaxed, sometimes they were a little more fast paced and demanding. Sometimes business was hectic, sometimes it wasn’t. I quit at the beginning of the school year, because I didn’t feel I could hold a job and do well in school at the same time. And while I’m sure my slow preparations didn’t make Soul Good that much money, I will always be grateful for the opportunity. Maybe everyone’s first job sticks in their mind as a good learning experience, but what I got out of working at Soul Good is the kind of thing that sticks with you your entire life.

Hopefully Soul Good will find a new location. But if they don’t, I just don’t know where I’m going to get good smoothies when they’re gone. Certainly not from McDonald’s– Soul Good taught me that, too.