Sometimes, something beautiful can bloom out of tragedy.
That’s what happened with Kristi Schuck and Marie Farley Christensen. The two women own and operate WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get), Mankato’s first juice bar, which they opened in January 2016. They already have about 20 employees and a loyal fan base, drawn to their all organic, gluten-free foods and 100 percent raw juices. But their story begins long before that.
Schuck and Farley Christensen became friends while attending a support group in 2015 for people who had lost their spouses to cancer. Farley Christensen’s husband, Bob, had passed away nearly 10 years previously after a fight with colon rectal cancer, while Schuck’s husband, Wes, had died only months earlier from the same disease.
“It was just amazing, how similar our stories were,” Farley Christensen said. “For the first time, I had somebody to talk to.”
Minnetonka native Schuck met her husband, Wes, while she was studying at Gustavus Adolphus College. After settling in Mankato, their lives were abruptly changed when 34-year-old Wes was diagnosed with stage-four colon rectal cancer in 2001 and told he only had about four months to live.
Instead of giving up, the couple started looking for ways to supplement the chemotherapy and radiation treatments. That’s how they discovered juicing.
“We thought, ‘There’s more to this than cancer—there’s also health,’” Schuck explained. “We knew focusing on health was what helped us thrive every day and really just honor the quality of life.”
Thanks to cleaning up Wes’s diet and introducing healthy new juice drinks, Schuck said her husband was able to maintain a great quality of life throughout his remaining time. He passed away in 2015, living nearly four years longer than the doctors had originally predicted.
Farley Christensen faced a similar struggle with her husband, Bob. Originally from St. James, she met Bob while attending Augsburg College and married him in 1990. In 2006, 34-year-old Bob was diagnosed with colon rectal cancer and given only 18 months to live.
Like the Schucks, Farley Christensen and her husband totally overhauled what was on their dinner table, eliminating gluten and sugar and adding in juices. She said the results were remarkable, and Bob lived another four years.
As the women bonded over their shared stories, they realized they also shared a passion for nutrition, particularly juicing. When Schuck voiced her decision to start her own juicing business, it didn’t take long for Farley Christensen to come on board as partner. And with that, WYSIWYG was born. Besides juices, they also offer smoothies, salads, desserts, coffees and more, including vegan and vegetarian options.
The women say they hope to establish their current location as the WYSIWYG flagship store, before branching out into catering, distributing to local stores and gyms, and starting a franchise.
Whatever the future holds, though, their main goal is to always offer nutritious choices to their customers.
“Regardless of the number of your days, it really is about the quality of your days,” Farley Christensen said. “There are many things that you cannot control, but your nutrition is one that you can enhance to give yourself the best life.”