Smoothie bowls come to Ne­wark

Viva Bowls opens, Playa Bowls an­nounces Ne­wark lo­ca­tion

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­non@ches­

Suf­fer­ing from se­vere al­ler­gies, Kelly Har­tranft was look­ing for healthy, dair y-free foods to eat when she tried a smoothie bowl dur­ing a trip to Cal­i­for­nia.

“It blew my mind how de­li­cious it was,” Har­tranft said.

Now, she’s one of two en­trepreneurs who are work­ing to in­tro­duce Ne­wark­ers to the smoothie bowl trend.

Two weeks ago, Har­tranft and her boyfriend, Robert Peo­ples, opened Viva Bowls in Mar­ket East Plaza. Mean­while, Playa Bowls, which al­ready has sev­eral locations in New Jersey, plans to open early next year on Main Street.

Smoothie bowls typ­i­cally fea­ture “su­per­fruits” like acai or pitaya, both na­tive to South Amer­ica. The acai or pitaya is blended with ad­di­tional fruits and in­gre­di­ents like al­mond milk or co­conut water un­til it has a con­sis­tency a lit­tle thicker than a smoothie. That serves as the base of the bowl and is then topped with a va­ri­ety of fruits, granola and other top­pings like chia seeds, co­conut flakes or nut but­ter.

Other va­ri­eties use ba­nanas, kale or avo­cado as the base. Both restau­rants also plan to sell oat­meal bowls, chia pud­ding bowls and tra­di­tional smooth­ies.

Pop­u­lar on the West Coast, smoothie bowls only re­cently be­gan mak­ing in­roads on the East Coast. Playa Bowls was founded by Abby Tay­lor and Robert Gi­u­liani in New Jersey in 2014.

Tay­lor first ex­pe­ri­enced smoothie bowls on a surf­ing trip to Puerto Rico and de­cided to bring the idea to her home­town at the Jersey Shore, she said, adding that she started small.

“It was ba­si­cally like a hot dog cart in front of our apart­ment in Bel­mar,” she said.

Playa Bowls grew quickly and now has 23 locations, with another 14 planned. The Ne­wark restau­rant will be the com­pany’s first in Delaware.

Bear res­i­dent Dustin Mushin­ski will run the lo­cal Playa Bowls, which will open at 134 E. Main St., for­merly home of the Ne­wark Po­lice Depart­ment’s com­mu­nity polic­ing cen­ter and, be­fore that, SAS Cup­cakes.

Mushin­ski, a friend of Tay­lor and Gi­u­liani, said she’s been im­pressed with Playa Bowls and wanted to get in­volved with the busi­ness.

“I’ve been fas­ci­nated by them,” she said. “They’re in­cred­i­ble.”

She’s hop­ing that the prox­im­ity to the Univer­sity of Delaware will bode well for Playa Bowls’ suc­cess.

“There’s a lot of brand aware­ness with all the stu­dents from UD who are from New Jersey,” she said.

Viva Bowls – lo­cated fur­ther from cam­pus and a bit off the beaten path – is tar­geted at a broader mar­ket, said Har­tranft, a Wash­ing­ton, D.C., na­tive who now lives in Bear, adding that she chose Mar­ket East Plaza be­cause it has its own park­ing lot.

“I know peo­ple don’t like to venture into Main Street be­cause of the park­ing sit­u­a­tion,” she said.

She hopes to even­tu­ally open ad­di­tional restau­rants in Wilm­ing­ton and at the Delaware beaches.

While some cus­tomers are fa­mil­iar with the smoothie bowl con­cept, oth­ers re­quire some ex­pla­na­tion, Har­tranft said.

“Open­ing in Delaware, we have to ed­u­cate peo­ple. What’s an acai bowl? What’s a pitaya bowl?” she said.

Both Har­tranft and Mushin­ski said a large per­cent­age of their cus­tomers are mil­len­ni­als, who tend to be health-con­scious and open to tr ying new things. They do much of their mar­ket­ing through so­cial me­dia, par­tic­u­larly the photo-cen­tric In­sta­gram, which is per­fect for the col­or­ful smoothie bowls.

“They’re the pret­ti­est pho­tos,” Mushin­ski said. “No fil­ter needed.”


Smoothie bowls, like these ones, are sold at Viva Bowls in Mar­ket East Plaza. A sec­ond smoothie bowl shop will open soon on Main Street.


Dustin Mushin­ski (left) will run the Main Street lo­ca­tion of the chain Playa Bowls, which was founded in 2014 by Abby Tay­lor (right).

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