Acai is making moves on Long Island.
Patchogue-based chain SoBol, which sells frozen acai bowls, has hit its maximum for franchise locations on Long Island — 26, said Robin Graf, director of franchise sales and business development.
“I think we’re growing very quickly and very strategically and with purpose,” she said. The chain, which began selling franchises two years ago, has 18 franchise locations open on Long Island with eight more to come. There are also two corporate-owned locations, in Sayville and Patchogue.
The chain’s next Long Island franchise will open at 2332 Hempstead Tpke. in East Meadow in the Meadowbrook Shopping Center in two weeks, Graf said. A Plainview location, at 633 Old Country Rd. in Plainview Town Plaza, is slated to open by the end of 2018.
The chain has stores in Staten Island, White Plains, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, and one will open in Astoria, Queens, on Wednesday. The company wants to have 100 open by 2022, Graf said.
SoBol was founded by Sayville natives Jason Mazzarone and Jim Kalomiris in 2014.
The chain’s acai bowls are made by blending frozen acai berries, strawberries, bananas and soy milk into a puree, which is then topped with granola, honey and chopped fruit.
Acai is a reddish-purple fruit that comes from the acai palm tree of Central and South America.
The fruit’s use in bowls and drinks is a fast-growing business, partly because it’s linked to health benefits.
Some studies show that acai has more antioxidants than cranberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and blueberries but, at this time, acai berries have no known health benefit different from that of similar fruits, according to WebMd.com.
Some of the other acai players with a local presence:
• Long Island Beach Bowls opened its first location in Islip in 2016 and will open its third store in October at 14B Railroad Ave. in Babylon Village, said co-owner Sal Cataldo of Bay Shore.
• Bango Bowls started in Massapequa Park in 2017 and now has eight locations, including six on Long Island. A lease recently was signed for another Bango Bowls that will open in Lynbrook in early 2019, said co-owner Ryan Thorman of Bay Shore.
• Ah-Sah-EE Café opened in Long Beach in 2017.
• And Texas-based Jamba Juice, the largest player in the smoothie industry with more than 800 locations worldwide, including three on Long Island, sells acaí bowls.
Ronkonkoma resident Angelina Perry, 26, opened her second SoBol, at 555 NY-111 in Hauppauge, on Aug. 7. She opened her first in a space beside her florist shop on Hawkins Avenue in Ronkonkoma in September 2017.
At that time, she was spurred to make use of the extra building space because foot traffic had slowed down for her floral business, Perry said. Her acai bowl business is doing well, and word-of-mouth is helping to increase sales, she said.
“We’re doing really well in Ronkonkoma. Our clientele is pretty much . . . more of a young crowd,” she said.
Wantagh resident Jim Duffe, who is a partner with Joe Thompson in SoBol's East Meadow franchise, said that while acai has been big in California for at least a decade, it’s just now starting to catch on on Long Island because of its health benefits.
“Because people are looking for an alternative, something that’s healthy and fits a healthy lifestyle,” said Duffe, who said younger consumers are fueling the trend.
Retail Roundup is a column about major retail news on Long Island — store openings, closings, expansions, acquisitions, etc. — that is published online and weekly in the paper. To read more of these columns, click here. If you have news to share, please send an email to Newsday reporter Tory N. Parrish at firstname.lastname@example.org.