Arden Zinn, 83, brought tasty health to Atlanta masses

Arden Zinn, founder of Arden's Garden, the juice stores and juice producer, grew her loves and interests into businesses. (JOEY IVANSCO/staff photo).

Credit: AJC

Credit: AJC

Arden Zinn, founder of Arden's Garden, the juice stores and juice producer, grew her loves and interests into businesses. (JOEY IVANSCO/staff photo).

Edward Zinn, the son of Atlanta’s maven of fresh juices and healthy living, Arden Zinn, invoked a phrase with a whiff of being shopworn to describe his mom.

Arden Zinn, who passed away late last month, “marched to the beat of her own drummer.”

“My sister and I each used that phrase in our eulogies,” said Edward Zinn, who was also a sometimes business associate. “And it would be an understatement. She had more of an artist’s personality even though many people thought of her as a businesswoman.”

Living healthfully and spreading that gospel to others was at her very core, say friends and family. But she pursued that mission on her own terms. Not motivated by money, she’d give away her signature juices to friends — and sometimes to paying customers. Ideas she championed — fitness studios, yoga poses, drinking a meal as a healing modality for the body — were years ahead of their time.

In a 2001 Atlanta Journal Constitution interview, long before juicing and raw foods became white-hot, she opined that “if it doesn’t come out of the ground or off a tree, you shouldn’t pay much attention to it.”

Zinn walked the walk, she had been making natural fruit-and veggie juices for herself and her kids for decades.

Arden Zinn founder of Arden's Garden, the juice stores and juice producer, brought the mind of a creative entrepreneur to the health business. (JOEY IVANSCO/staff photo).

Credit: AJC

icon to expand image

Credit: AJC

Arden Zinn, 83, who grew a devotion to the tools of good health and improved lives, died Nov. 23 from complications of COVID-19 and Parkinson’s disease. She is survived by her children, Ed and Leslie (Jorge), and five grandchildren. A private service was held.

Those family members say the ups and downs of her life put Zinn’s visionary and resilient approach on full display.

The focus on health took shape in childhood helped along by a professional athlete father and her ballet training. It came to fruition considerably later after she and her then-husband, a college professor, moved to Atlanta in 1965.

Pregnant with her older child Edward, she laser-focused on nutrition and exercise, telling an AJC reporter in 2001 that “I was going to have the healthiest baby that was ever seen. And I was going to keep him healthy.”

Her groundbreaking exercise show debuted on local public TV in 1969, followed by the first Arden Zinn Studio fitness center in 1971. The initial Buckhead outpost grew to 14 locations in three states before she lost control of the chain in the mid-1980s, knocking her from her perch as a high-profile business owner, CNN contributor and stretch coach for local pro and college sports teams.

Suddenly, said daughter Leslie Zinn, “my mom didn’t have anything to fall back on.” Undaunted, she turned to delivering newspapers, working in retail and living very frugally. She’d divorced years earlier.

The reversals would have undoubtedly crushed some spirits, but not Zinn’s

“My mom had no ego,“ she said. “She was very humble. And she never gave up.”

Evidence of that last attribute came in the early 1990s when, described as broke and using most of her remaining credit-card bandwidth, she bought an expensive juicer and began making concoctions for friends. A health food store offered her a deal: they’d supply fruits and vegetables if she’d turn them into juices, and they’d split the profits 50-50.

Despite the gig and her skills, the business was in danger of foundering. Her kids urged her to shop her products around Buckhead, targeting law offices and brokerage houses, presumably rife with disposable income.

But Zinn had a different and out-of-the-box notion. Beauty salons.

“That literally turned the company around,“ said Leslie, who’s presided over Arden’s Garden in the years since her mom stepped away. And it made sense in retrospect.

“Hair stylists are literally stuck at their stations. They always have cash from tips, they like what’s new and trendy, and they always have a different customer in the chair.”

Mom and kids swapped the smaller juicer for a heavy-duty commercial cold-press and the enterprise grew steadily to today’s 17 Arden’s Garden retail stores and a wholesale operation servicing some 1,200retailers in the Southeast.

Victor Gaffney, company COO and a longtime friend, remembers that Zinn was an inveterate experimenter in the kitchen, but that her inventions occasionally collided with business realities.

“She’d come up with a concoction and say ‘This is so good for you,’ and we’d say, ‘yeah but it tastes terrible,’ “ he recalled. “Then we’d work on a way to make it better.”

Neither her first brush with celebrity nor the second act years later gave her an attitude.

“She’d go into a grocery store and someone would say ‘OMG that’s Arden,’ and the next thing you know she’d have 10 or 15 people standing around her asking questions,” said Gaffney, who called it “holding court.”

“And she always had time for all of them,” he said, “She never made you feel less-than.”

Longtime friend Julie Silverman added that Arden Zinn’s approach was indeed designed to uplift.

“Arden was a breath of fresh air. She always had this amazing energy and saw the good in every situation.”