Vui Hunt is one of those rare and wonderful people who has a contagious level of energy and enthusiasm. Her positivity and go-with-the-flow nature paired with her entrepreneurial spirit led her to open two of Nashville’s most popular healthy restaurants — Juice Bar and Vui’s Kitchen. Born in Vietnam and raised in Atlanta, Vui grew up with an appreciation for delicious, healthy food and ran her own restaurant, Veggieland, in Atlanta before moving to Nashville. She and her husband John work together to run both restaurants while also raising their two clever and creative daughters.
Vui’s enthusiasm for her business, her staff and her customers is evident. She loves her job and everyone she works with — and they love her back, though it’s not hard to see why. We are thrilled to introduce Vui Hunt as today’s FACE of Nashville!
When and why did you move to Nashville?
My husband! I grew up in Atlanta and met John in 2006. I was working at Veggieland and John came in one day. And then he came back the next day and the next and the next. He lived in Nashville at the time, so we commuted back and forth for two years before I moved to Nashville. We got married in 2008.
I love it here; I don’t want to leave! I started working at Whole Foods when John and I first got married and built relationships with people there. The warmth, loyalty and Southern hospitality I experienced with people was so strong! I feel so fortunate to have been able to really start making connections there that continue to influence my business today — it gives me chills. We are so fortunate.
We moved to China for John’s job in 2012, and that’s how Juice Bar got started. The opportunity didn’t work out, and we still had our house in Nashville, so it made sense to come back here and figure things out. John wasn’t in good health, and I was trying to get him back on track health-wise by making juices for him (with my 20-year-old juicer). We saw a sandwich shop for sale in Brentwood on Craigslist, and we decided to buy it. We’ve always called ourselves serial entrepreneurs and are always looking for the opportunity to create something. We had this sandwich shop, but we couldn’t do sodas or chips or salami — so what were we going to do with the business? We decided on juices and smoothies. I had a background with vegetables and healthy food, so it made sense to pair a few items along with the juice components for when people wanted a little something extra. I don’t think Nashville knew how badly it needed this.
We wanted to create a space where you could come in, get something healthy and get on your way. So we did. And, the rest is history!
Juice Bar and now Vui’s … do you see yourself franchising Vui’s Kitchen?
You know, we’re really taking it one step at a time. We’re enjoying this part of the business, and I love being connected to my staff. Each day that I’m here, I get to see something new. There’s a better process for one thing or another, and I get to see that first-hand with them. It’s great to be able to have time to work through the kinks.
We franchised Juice Bar because we wanted everyone to have the experience of accessible, healthy food that is reasonably priced. We are so thankful to our friends and partners who have opened the other Juice Bar locations. And we’ve been so lucky to have the business grow in the way it has, even outside of Nashville.
Juice Bar is quick and on-the-go and for when you’re in a hurry. Vui’s fulfills my need to really focus on crafting food. I want Vui’s to be a place to come and eat and enjoy your meal and the people around you. So right now, I’m just enjoying working through that part of the business and working with my team here!
How do you find balance in running these two businesses and maintaining your family life?
There is no balance; perfect doesn’t have to be perfect. When John and I first started our family and the business, I asked my mom to come down from Chicago and help. She said okay, but that it would be a few months before she could come down to Nashville. That didn’t work for us. So I drove 10 hours to go get her and bring her back to Nashville just so we could have an extra set of hands and help.
John is also super hands-on. He is a wonderful communicator, far better than me. I think our teamwork and ability to rely on one another is what makes it work. We are a team, we work as a team. That’s how we keep a balance.
What’s your favorite thing about having the restaurants?
The people! I love making connections with people and getting to impact their day whether it’s with a refreshing juice or delicious lunch or just a conversation we have at the counter. I’d be happy doing any job that allowed me to be around people, but getting to combine that love with my love of food and cooking is such a blessing.
Tell us something about you that may surprise our readers.
Sea salt and vinegar chips are my go-to late-night snack. I graze on veggies, fruits and juice all day long and they’re so delicious. But when I come home late and need something salty, I love those crunchy chips!
Is there anything you’re looking forward to before the end of the year?
Ask my husband! I’m not the planner, I just follow along with whatever he puts together. For spring break with our girls, John told me we were staying in this small, dingy hotel near the beach. But that was okay, because we were with our family and at the beach. But then we arrived, he had actually booked a small house for us to stay in, complete with beach toys and games for the girls. Within a few hours of arriving and getting settled, there was a knock at the door and my best friend and her family had arrived to join us. I was so happy and pleasantly surprised, but I could have done the dingy hotel, too! Whatever he plans is wonderful, and I’m happy to just go along with it.
What’s a piece of advice or saying that inspires you?
Take it easy, life is short, go with the flow!
If time and money were no barrier, where would you want to visit?
The beach. Really just somewhere warm where I can be barefoot. Key West is one of my favorite places because it reminds me of Vietnam. Breezy, hot, on the ocean, always sunny. I love to be outside and with my family.
What are three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends?
Mascara, Sriracha and the connections I get to make with the people who come to our stores — they bring me so much joy!
Thank you, Vui! And thanks to Ashley Hylbert for today’s photos.
Check out the new “FACES of TriStar” series. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re thrilled to introduce you to Dr. Casey Chollet, a radiation oncologist at Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at TriStar Health and today’s FACE of TriStar. Click here to read how she’s changing lives of Middle Tennesseans!