Playa Bowls is New Jersey’s original Acai shop that started out in 2014 when Co-Founder Abby Taylor came back from traveling and surfing expeditions. Abby had her first acai bowls on these trips and fell in love. When she returned, she couldn’t find them anywhere and she decided to start selling them with her boyfriend Robert Giuliani in a small cart in front of their apartment on Ocean Ave in Belmar. “Rob and I worked hard to explain our background and the story of this little purplish berry from the Amazon. It was long, hard and frustrating days in the beginning, but we knew when it caught on we would have something amazing.”
Sure enough, the lines started growing for the smoothie bowls and since 2014 they have opened 17 locations in NJ, including our very own store in Lacey located at 44M Manchester Avenue, next to Gille Park. Playa Bowls serves healthy smoothies, juices, soups and various types of bowls, including: coconut, acai, pitaya, green and oatmeal. You can choose from many toppings to add to your bowls like fresh fruit, honey, peanut butter, Nutella, granola or coconut shavings. The health-shop puts a special emphasis on the Acai berry. Abby added, “The acai is so full of antioxidants and gives you a natural little mid day boost.”
Since their start, many smoothie bowl shops have been popping up on the Jersey Shore trying to replicate the Playa Bowls experience. Abby isn’t worried though, “when you come into our stores, the vibe is infectious. It’s not forced or corny and I think that’s where we really hit the mark. People want to hang out in Playa Bowls and maybe escape reality for a little and enjoy a bowl.” The shops all feature caribbean colors and aesthetics and make sure to incorporate the surf culture that inspired the restaurant.
The Jersey Shore is known for it’s ice cream, funnel cakes, pizza pies, hot dogs and more, so presenting a healthier option that tastes great has the health-conscious beach crowd ecstatic. Though, some have questioned the nutrition behind the smoothie bowls to which Abby remarks, “you can make the bowls as healthy or unhealthy as you wish. Sure, Nutella is not the healthiest option, but it sure as hell beats the pizza and french fries the majority of the population is scarfing down. The Acai in itself is packed with antioxidants and I think it’s foolish to say they aren’t healthy.”
Playa Bowls is also very active in the community and support local charities and programs. Recently they worked with Habitat for Humanity, donated to Oceans of Hope, Apple a Day Program and a few more. They also raised money for the families of the young girls who drowned in Belmar, their hometown.
So, what’s next on the horizon for Playa Bowls? “We have plans to expand out of state. We recently opened up in Pennsylvania at Lehigh University, which has been a big hit. We also opened up two locations in NYC and that’s been an amazing experience for us. Next up Delaware, North Carolina, Florida and we have no plan of stopping! We want to expand and keep our culture and brand strong!” Abby Added.