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De-stress with freshly squeezed juice in the Uzima juicer

Oakland juice shop Uzima has reopened after temporarily closing due to personal and logistical issues.

Located at 3400 Forbes Ave. It takes specifically designed to raise awareness of mental illness. Because the juicer is located near several colleges, Uzima aims to help support student mental health by hosting events like open mic nights. Some of the store’s signature dishes include the Unite acai bowl with acai, banana, strawberry, granola and almond milk. Uzima also offers juices and smoothies in a variety of fruit flavors — mango, coconut, black cherry, and more. Prices range from $8 to $13.

Uzima founder Sheronika Marshall said she originally opened on January 10, but had to close on January 11 due to a device malfunction and the need to focus on their mental health.

“There was a piece of equipment that went down, so there were some mechanical issues,” Sheronica Marshall said. “We still have a young family with children, so family is important, and then finances and business development times are also stressful, so we took a few weeks off to say our mental health is important.”

Maya Marshall, Founder It takes, said it’s clear that college students often struggle with their mental health. Marshall said she’s noticed a trend among her student employees — especially those who struggle to work when the store is busy and often need help remembering juice recipes.

“Of all the employees we had there, I think about half of them had some kind of mental illness,” said Mayan Marshall. “They were struggling with what my wife and I could do.”

Before opening Uzima, Sheronica and Maya Marshall both ran Salud Juicery. Since opening Uzima, Sheronica Marshall has started a new initiative called Student Shop Projects, where students can share their mental health journeys and have a portrait of themselves placed on one of the shop’s walls. Each portrait has a QR code that allows viewers to read the student’s journey.

“We want to get a student portrait from every university in Pittsburgh, from all majors and mental illnesses,” said Sheronica Marshall. “If you’re a freshman at any of these universities, if you walk into our store, you should be able to find a portrait of someone with the same mental illness or major to see how they’ve navigated school.”

According to Maya Marshall, Uzima faces mental illness and embraces it instead of running away from it. The walls of the store are covered with posters of famous people like Kurt Cobain. The store also has mental health books for customers to read when they visit.

“We strive to make our store a haven of safety so that students can explore mental illness in all its wonder and diversity,” said Mayan Marshall. “There are a lot of people in society who really want to fix mental illness and try to eradicate it and address it, and we don’t think you can do that. You can understand, but you can’t fix it. We’re trying to change the conversation about mental illness and make it beautiful.”

Maya Marshall said she was inspired to create Uzima after she and her wife dealt with their own mental health issues. He said his family didn’t openly discuss mental health with each other, which led her to create a safe space to discuss these issues.

“It’s something we’ve kept close to the vest,” Mayan Marshall said. “I had an episode when the COVID came, because I’m bipolar, and my wife and I prayed through that. We thought the best thing we could do, especially around COVID, is to make a store about mental health more than anything.”

Harlie Winkler, a graduate student at Carlow University and an employee of Uzima, said the juicer provides a supportive environment for her to explore resources and share experiences related to mental health.

“They definitely raise awareness about mental health,” Winkler said. “Everything helps. Sheronica and Maya are great, it helps that they focus first, which is you as a person first, and then work second. I verbally shared my story with Maya the other day and she told me she would be there if I needed to talk. He also said it would help him find resources.”

Maya Marshall Uzima said she is trying to develop informal mental health support systems for students in the Pittsburgh area. She said Uzima has a Circle of Friends project that pairs six students with a therapist to discuss topics ranging from stress management to finding identity.

“With the prevalence of mental illness in the college community, we’ve heard from students that universities don’t have the resources to deal with the level of students coming for help,” said Mayan Marshall. “It’s just that demand is outstripping supply. Basically, we want to create a community where people care about each other, and we hope Circle of Friends will be a part of that.”

According to Sheronica Marshall, mental illness is much more normal and common than most people think.

“You can have a smoothie shop anywhere,” Sheronica Marshall said. “I think we’ve come to the conclusion that mental illness is much more prevalent among Gen Z than there is a need for a Smoothie Shop. This prompted us to rebrand the store.”