Found in the heart of Compton, CA, stands an oasis that provides a refreshing moment for the collective community. The Pucker Up Lemonade Company’s storefront sits happily alongside other small businesses, but there is something different about this community watering hole.
Inspired by her childhood, founder and lemonade connoisseur, Karneisha Christian-Stewart has found a way to add that extra zest to life. With over 50 different variations of lemonade on the menu, Pucker Up Lemonade brings a vibrance to the streets of Compton that reflects the diversity within the community flavor.
“Everyone knows lemonade,” Stewart declared, as she explained the business in refreshments is nothing new. However, she managed to give the traditional American family beverage a whole new twist. Stewart shared her experiences in her youth, of her father’s perseverance in his landscaping projects within the community, that led her to the current legacy of lemonade.
Stewart said, “My dad wore many hats, and one of his businesses was a tree and lawn service. He would always have access to really good, fresh, and homegrown fruits from people’s trees.”
She continued, “… Daily, he would bring back really big, grocery bags of seriously big juicy, oddly shaped lemons … “ Stewart’s father would come home with handpicked lemons; she made note of her amazement in all the different sizes they were, and following a triple wash method, the family of six children would make the household beverage. Stewart’s father passed away, but his zest for life and providing for his family lives on through the Pucker Up Lemonade Company.
Juice was never on the family grocery list, because the household lemonade was always in stock. Stewart described after the lemons were properly cleaned, her dad would create their thirst-quenching elixir and she watched the process from start-to-finish. She joked at her father’s version being way too sweet, being an expert of the taste herself. In 2021, Stewart is producing a version that has reduced sugar, an updated version of the household drink anyone that’s health-conscious will enjoy.
Peering into the present growth of the business, sales reached over 300% in profit this year. Stewart reminisced on the humble beginnings that started from the chilled pitcher in her personal kitchen, to now a fully commercialized storefront, and visions of mass production soon.
Stewart said, “We came a long way from not having a commercialized kitchen to prepare in—then, we had one to prepare in, but we didn’t have our own exclusive space … ” building from a general commercialized kitchen, Stewart is now planted in her storefront, located on 723 E. Compton Blvd, Compton, CA. They have been in their brick-and-mortar for approximately two years.
Reflecting on her journey to ownership, Stewart described the first debut of Pucker Up Lemonade at her children’s fundraiser and it was carnival-themed, as noted in the Foodzooka media outlet. The wholesome lemonade stand got their first taste of success, and Stewart’s wheels began to turn, seeing the profit one could have if they squeezed the lemons a little bit harder.
Being the beacon for possibility, Stewart explained the energy of entrepreneurship that flows within her family. Her children share the spirit of ingenuity that is highlighted in the Pucker Up ambiance.
Stewart revealed the thought that fuels her to keep pushing, its the empire that she envisions. She hopes it will live throughout her family line, she said, “I think the kids realized, that anything is possible. We started this with backyard lemons, and to see where we come today, they really see the possibilities of consistency, hard work, and great work ethic.” Charli Smith, 13, Khamarli Jarrett,19, and Ken Stewart, Jr., 23, have all witnessed their mom’s unwavering dedication to owning her own business.
After nine years in the beverage industry, Stewart has seen the difficulties of entrepreneurship. She credits the support of family and staff, mentors, and faith that has pulled her through all of the hardship and obstacles Pucker Up Lemonade has faced. Stewart grew her business from the lessons learned as a new business owner, lack of funding, and starting from home. Although she saw every hurdle, she did not stop the lemonade locomotive.
Stewart is now looking to have a Pucker Up Lemonade stand on every corner, expanding the opportunity within the refreshments line of business, Pucker Up offers beverage catering. As a “beverage boutique,” they provide drink stations, tea parties, and mocktail drinks, pressed, stirred and ready to order. With flavors like mango, lavender, and charcoal, tastebuds will be shaken up from the surprising notes of the unique lemonade combinations.
In a five-year window, Pucker Up is looking to expand past Los Angeles, Stewart is looking to be the nation’s household drink. Stewart said, “We are on track to go into mass production and distribution, regionally and then nationally,” she continued, “We will also license our brand to other entrepreneurs that would like to open up Pucker Up Lemonade Company in their hometown.”
Stewart went on to describe the future of the lemonade stand is going mobile, the Pucker Up food truck will be available in the first quarter of 2021. Stewart emphasized her excitement in growth by saying, “For people to see where we started and 2011, and now we are going into 2021, which will be our tenth year, can see this growth. And our growth was scaled in a different way.” Stewart said that the community has shown so much love and support during her journey.
Feeling the community connection, Stewart reflected on the pivoting note that made all outdoor events on the calendar come to a halt, due to COVID-19. The Pucker Up Lemonade family was looking forward to the festivities that they were a part of where they made cherished memories, before a global pandemic shut down massive crowd attractions. Husband, Jon “Ken” Stewart, and herself decided to commemorate their vows intentionally on the day of one of the top local attractions, Taste of Soul, which would have taken place in October of this year.
According to the food media outlet, Foodzooka, each combination of lemonade creates a different aroma for the customer to enjoy. With traditional strawberry lemonade being a house favorite, Pucker Up Lemonade pushed the envelope and developed innovative concoctions of lemonade, such as cucumber, watermelon, ginger, and pineapple. Pucker Up Lemonade uses premium Italian syrups, teas, and handcrafted sweeteners to give that extra nod to the flavoring in their refreshing beverage.
Rendering information from the previously noted media, the heart of the lemonade starts with a specialized fusion of reverse osmosis as the Pucker Up Lemonade base. But the soul of the flavoring stays true to the family’s “secret ingredient.” Quoting Stewart, “I’m always about the quality. Water is the major ingredient in the recipe, so it has to be on point.”
Stewart came full circle by explaining the company’s slogan, “When Life gives you lemons, pucker up!” She said, “Pucker up means different things to different people; for us, it means—with whatever you are handed in life, ready yourself, position yourself, use your resources, and that’s what Pucker Up has really been.” One can taste all 50 flavors of Pucker Up specialty lemonade by ordering online or by calling for takeout. They are open every day except Monday, from 1 – 5 p.m. One can also call ahead of time, at (562) 507-8177.