NEW YORK – The history of the shopping mall might never have been the same if an enterprising man named Julius Freed hadn't set up a freshly squeezed orange juice stand on a Los Angeles street back in 1926.
But it wasn't just ordinary OJ. At the suggestion of his friend Bill Hamlin, a real-estate developer and former chemistry student, Freed jazzed up the drink with a mysterious formula of egg whites, non-dairy powder and a few secret ingredients.
The frothy drink, and his customers' habit of asking for "An orange, Julius" turned a simple business into a nationwide institution known as Orange Julius, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year.
More Than a Feeling
For Brenda Soucek, Orange Julius is about more than a fruit drink for teenage girls in jean jackets to slurp on while gawking at high school boys. It's about family and tradition.
"We have people who say, 'I can remember when I was a child, every time I went to the mall we went to an Orange Julius store with my parents, and now I take my kids to the Orange Julius at the mall,'" said Soucek, director of marketing for the mall operations division of Dairy Queen, Inc., which owns the Orange Julius brand.
Few people know Orange Julius preceded even the first pimple-faced teen to set foot in a food court. The chain originated as a simple outdoor stand that served hot dogs with their 10-cent Orange Julius drinks, all next to a devil mannequin and a quaint sign that promised "A Devilish Good Drink."
Sweeping the Nation
Just two years later, there were 40 Orange Julius stores, including one in Times Square. A year after that there were 100 outlets in America selling the cold ambrosia that has been described as tasting like everything from "baby aspirin" to "melted sherbet."
"It was the original smoothie concept," Soucek said in a telephone interview from her office in Minneapolis.
In the 1960s, Orange Julius left the streets and found its niche in the first malls. And as malls proliferated, so did Orange Julius. Today there are 500 stalls in malls across America and Canada, in Singapore, Puerto Rico, South Korea, the Philippines and Japan.
A store could have as many as 11 different variations on the original flavor, including strawberry and pina colada, 14 smoothie drinks and 16 Julius Creation yogurt drinks. To celebrate this year's anniversary, Orange Julius is rolling out a new raspberry-and-blueberry smoothie, limited-edition barbecue hot dogs and offering promotional T-shirts and gifts.
There's even an Orange Julius University on the campus of the Dairy Queen headquarters in Minneapolis, which trains store managers.
For Joanne Murray, who operates the sole Orange Julius in New York City, in the Queens Center in Queens, the training pays off in persistent popularity of the drink and the cream-mustachioed smiles of her customers.
"People come from Poughkeepsie, from three hours away to get an Orange Julius," she said proudly. "We have a very good business here."