Palouse Juice owner promotes healthy lifestyle

Toni Salerno-Baird discusses how illness led her to open organic, all-natural vegetarian cafe.


ADAM JACKSON |The Daily Evergreen

Palouse Juice co-owner Toni Salerno-Baird explains the challenges that came with opening her first business.

SYDNEY BROWN, Evergreen reporter

For Toni Salerno-Baird, opening her first business, Palouse Juice, was a dream driven by her self-proclaimed love of people. The ambition translated into nearly six years of work for her and her husband.

Palouse Juice is an all-organic, all-natural vegan juice bar with a menu consisting of juices, smoothies and acai bowls, as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner options.

The rustic-style dining area is decorated with framed glass posters, each with a different ingredient and a list of its benefits. Bright fruits and vegetables add color to the light brown wood floors, walls and tabletops. The warm lights cast a glow that accompanies the smells of parsley, coffee and cooked rice.

Salerno-Baird’s journey to becoming a business owner began over a decade ago, when she worked as a theater director and radio DJ before an illness heavily impacted her life.

“I totally turned it around and became completely neurotic with organic stuff,” she said. “I got rid of everything in my house, down to the toothpaste I used, makeup, cleaning supplies. Everything was organic, everything was natural.”

She dove into the world of holistic medicine. Her illness pushed her to research methods of healing the body without relying on Western medicine, she said.

“I really believe in and trust Indian and Eastern philosophy when it comes to medicine,” Salerno-Baird said, “and that’s been around for thousands of years.”

With a newfound niche centered in natural medicine practice, she and her husband worked to build up their dream business with the goal of educating their community on what she considered the healthiest lifestyle.

However, this proved more difficult than either realized, she said. Two and a half years ago, their attempt to open the business failed. Their lease fell through on the location, and finding funds became a complicated endeavor.

This was only the beginning of their troubles. Shortly after they lost the business, Salerno-Baird and her husband lost their twins. Salerno-Baird cited this as one of the main reasons for diving back into the venture.

“Tragedy really helps you learn,” Salerno-Baird said. “After that, we just had to throw ourselves back into life. This business became a lot like our baby. It was something we worked so hard for.”

Then, around eight months ago, her dream came to fruition when both leasing and funds came through, she said. Salerno-Baird developed her own recipes, some of which she tested on her family. The whole point was to develop a menu with appeal to anybody in the community.

“I knew when I started that not everybody would be as obsessive with health as I am,” she said. “So I tried to avoid putting a ton of strong ingredients, because not too many people like that.”

Salerno-Baird described some of the most popular menu items and some of her favorites. She noted the Beauty Queen, which includes a number of greens, and pineapple to offset the strong taste. She emphasized pineapple’s abundance of enzymes, which she said are great for the stomach.

“I like to formulate each drink specifically so that not only does it taste good, but it’s actually good for you,” she said. “We have Funky Monkey, where it’s kind of like a milkshake, but it’s a healthy one.”

At Palouse Juice, customers can also try one of the quinoa bowls of her own creation. Both she and Palouse Juice’s manager, Kaiden Hoskins, mentioned the popularity of the Fiesta Bowl and Salerno-Baird’s homemade spinach dip.

Hoskins is a long-time family friend of Salerno-Baird, and she hired him because she considered trustworthiness and attitude over everything else in selecting her employees.

“I can’t deal with a bad attitude,” she said. “I just don’t have time for it, life is too short. That’s why we play reggae, because we like everything to just be chill. We just want to have a good time here while we’re helping people. I even burn sage sometimes.”

The relaxed atmosphere worked out great for Hoskins. He said helping customers is their foremost priority, but everyone maintains a laidback demeanor.

“I enjoy how fluent our relationship is with [Salerno-Baird],” Hoskins said. “She’s open to new ideas right away. It gave me the freedom to work the way I wanted to work, especially since I’m here often and I get to see the business and what goes into it.”

Hoskins considers listening to customers and the community to be the driving force behind their menu. Customers often give feedback and Hoskins said he pays close attention. The future of Palouse Juice is reliant on its customers, he said.

This kind of interactive support is reflected not only in their consumers, but in community members in general, Salerno-Baird said. Gary Greenfield, non-executive chairman of Diebold Nixdorf’s Board of Directors, installed a water filtration system at Palouse Juice at no charge. Local farmer Dennis Snyder gave them an entire jar of homemade apple smoked dandelion root, which Salerno-Baird said contains body-cleansing properties.

“I think this will become more about the community and less about us,” Hoskins said. “I think the menu will continue to change and adjust to what the community wants on their menu and in their juices.”

Salerno-Baird said her ultimate mission is to empower and educate the community — which she has been a part of for almost 13 years — on the benefits of eating organic and all-natural foods. More than that, she wants to make it clear that health is more than just eating the right food.

“This really is a mind-body-soul place,” Salerno-Baird said. “It’s great to eat good, but you’ve got to think good.”

Salerno-Baird’s love of people is evident in the line of pamphlets and brochures along the front of the register, with references for local acupuncturists, nutritionists and masseuses. The more people on this type of lifestyle, Salerno-Baird said, the better for everyone.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned is to pay attention to what you’re putting in your body,” Hoskins said. “I never would have touched a beet before working here, and now I’ve noticed I’ve become a lot healthier since drinking our juices.”

Though juice bars and vegan options are nothing new in the Pullman-Moscow area, Hoskins said what sets them apart is their commitment to being the only organic, gluten-free, soy-free vegetarian cafe.

“This isn’t just a fad for me, it’s a lifestyle,” Salerno-Baird said. “I practice what I preach, and I’m good at what I do. I’ve seen the benefits of it on my family. I just want to give that knowledge back to the community.”

Palouse Juice is located in Moscow and is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.