After self-destructive years, Eric Wolfe starts 47 Twelve Juice Bar in Winona Lake as a way to give life
Eric Wolfe knew death every time he had a drink.
In the six years since he dropped out of college, Wolfe lost himself to alcohol, drugs and partying. He didn’t need his faith to tell him that what he was doing was wrong, but it was God that Wolfe reached out to when he was at his lowest.
“‘I’m worthless. I contribute nothing to my friends, to society, to myself,’” he’d say to God. “It was dark and hopeless. I wanted closure in the story of my life. And I looked at the moon and said, ‘God, I still need you, I still love you, I still believe that you love me.’”
And it was God, he said, that set him on the path toward cleaning up, getting his life together and starting the 47 Twelve Juice Bar at 1101 Canal St. in Winona Lake earlier this year.
1101 Canal St., Winona Lake.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday
The juice bar offers three different types of juices as well as a special that rotates each week. 47 Twelve also offers a 16-oz. juice with its yoga classes at 8:30 a.m. Saturday mornings for $10.
47 Twelve takes its name from Bible passage Ezekiel 47:12, which highlights fruits being used for food and healing. That passage might not have meant anything in the six years he found himself at the bottom of the the bottle, but it now defines the way he runs his business. Everything that goes into juice, he said, is for life.
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“I think that if you juice consistently, you’ll see an increase in energy and things like that. An increase in desire,” he said. “Couple that with yoga or running and reading scripture and having dialogue and communication with people and crying and laughing, (then) yeah, you’ll experience God in that.”
Wolfe said his drinking was encouraged, as these stories always seem to go, by a breakup.
He had been dating a girl on and off for his first few years as a student at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, but things just didn’t work out for them.
Wolfe said he had already been broken for “reasons that had nothing to do with her.” His mother left him when he was 12 years old, and alcohol abuse was something that ran in the family. But the way he saw it, drinking was just a way to numb his pain.
By day, he worked as part of Mike’s Express Car Wash in Noblesville, Carmel and Indianapolis for about five years, where he learned how to run a business. By night, he wandered in a drunken stupor to his neighbor’s deck chair where he’d lie back and stare at the moon.
“(I) just, like, laid on their (deck chairs) somewhere in between awake and passed out and I was looking at the moon and I just said, ‘God, it’s around the time for us to be done, to just give up on me,” he said.
The decision to turn his life around and seek God didn’t come all at once, Wolfe said. The way he phrases it, it was the “death of a thousand cuts” – many small incidents that built up over time – that led him back to the church.
He wanted to feel love, but Wolfe wanted something tangible that only a group of other believers would be able to give. So Wolfe turned to the 509 Community in Huntington, Ind., where he stayed with the pastor and six other men in a communal living space.
“We made meals together, we dreamed together about what the church could be…” he said. “We ran together, we read scripture together (and) we went to church together.”
It was at the church’s coffee shop where he started working as a barista, that he realized what he wanted to do with his life — interact with people.
“That’s when I realized how much I love encouraging people, enriching their lives,” Wolfe said. “I wanted people to come in and leave feeling more encouraged and enriched than when they got there.”
NILE, TIGRIS, EUPHRATES
Wolfe can’t say what drew him to Winona Lake. Until a few years ago, he had never visited the town, which only had slightly more than 4,900 residents in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
But he’d always etch the town’s name into the margins of his journal when he continued his studies at Huntington University. That too, he said, had to be God’s hand at work.
Wolfe later found a job serving tables at the Cerulean Restaurant at 1101 E. Canal St. in Winona Lake. After a year and half, Caleb France, the owner of the restaurant, came to him with a proposal.
“He was like, ‘Hey, why don’t you go and run your business out of my business?’” Wolfe said.
France told Wolfe that he had help when he first started out in the restaurant business, and he wanted to pay it forward. He told Wolfe that he could operate his juice bar out of the beer garden next door, called The Garden, during the mornings and afternoons when it wasn’t open.
So Wolfe started 47 Twelve with his two friends, Scott and Hailey Barger, who both worked together as part of a local ministry called The Outlier Project. The business had its grand opening in June.
And the influence of God is not lost on Wolfe or his business, from the Biblical garden and rivers that make up the logo to the names of the different juices.
The Nile, named so because the red juice looks like the Nile of Exodus, is made with beet, spinach, kale, apple lemon and ginger.
The Euphrates and the Tigris are both named after rivers that flow from the Garden of Eden.The Euphrates is made with spinach, kale, apple, lemon and jalapeno. The Tigris is made with apple, lemon and ginger.
All that’s left is to come up with recipes for the two remaining rivers that flowed out of Eden, Phison and Gihon, Wolfe said.
At the end of July, Wolfe’s two business partners returned to Pennsylvania, leaving Wolfe to run the business on his own. But that hasn’t discouraged Wolfe from continuing, as he’s known for the past few years, to enrich people’s lives.
“It’s like a love note from God,” he said. “Like, I have redeemed this and you will be offering juices that provide life to people when you knew death for so long.”
47 Twelve is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays at 1101 Canal St. in Winona Lake.