Playa Bowls Boston officially opened its doors on Commonwealth Avenue on Feb. 16. Nestled comfortably between Crazy Dough’s and El Pelón, the shop brings a taste of the beach—and a more nutritious dining option—to Boston College’s front door. Customers lined up out the door to get a taste of the franchise’s creative acai and pitaya bowls.
This is the first Massachusetts location for the New Jersey-based shop. Partner John Castiglione, BC ’05, lived with one of the company’s founders and got the opportunity to franchise the store about a year ago. After getting in touch with four friends from BC—Hung Lam, BC ’06; Dana Nentin, BC ’05; Sarosh Nentin, BC ’05; and Dave Swanson, BC ’05—the group jumped at the offer and, nearly 15 years after graduating, found themselves back at BC as business partners.
Considering the real estate options they had around Boston, they loved the opportunity that came with the space at 2199 Commonwealth Ave., a former real estate office, to gain a stronger connection to the BC community. Playa Bowls has already touched the student body: They’ve hired about 40 students, and in the few days they’ve been open, their social media has featured countless BC sweatshirts and familiar faces you might see around campus.
“We’re gonna have so much pride and love for this store,” Lam said. “If this place was open when we were students, we would have been here all the time.”
Playa Bowls is the brainchild of New Jersey natives Abby Taylor and Robert Guiliani. After seeing and surfing the beaches of coastal North and Central American surf towns, they wanted to bring home the one thing that all of these beaches had in common: acai and pitaya bowls.
While each town gives its own spin to their bowls, it’s a staple of surf towns that wasn’t common on the East Coast just a few years ago. Since the company’s establishment in 2014, it has launched over 65 franchises across the East Coast and the south, with the latest being here in Boston.
The company’s slogan—“Welcome to Pineappleland!”—glows in the shop’s front window. Scrawled in purple script, the vibrant first impression quickly introduces visitors to the trendy aesthetic of the shop.
Designed to capture the beachy vibe of the surf culture that inspired the company, every Playa Bowls location has a similar vibrant look and relaxed atmosphere. The communal tables made from reclaimed wood keep it casual, while the chalkboard menu—offering a healthy variety of smoothies, smoothie bowls, juices, and oatmeal bowls—contributes to the playful aesthetic.
Soon enough, the beach theme will project even stronger in the décor, with surf boards soon to accompany the murals freshly painted on the walls. Romona Schatzer, Playa Bowls’ regular artist, has painted most (if not all) of the stores with anchors and beach scenes unique to each location—Boston’s depicts Taylor and Guiliani selling their bowls from a small cart to a line of customers at the beach.
These connections across franchises demonstrate the company’s emphasis on continuous support and consistency in the Playa Bowls community to foster strong relationships within the company and with the communities they occupy. With Taylor and Guiliani in town for the opening day, the new store saw lines out the door for most of the weekend. The Nentins, Castiglione, Lam, and Swanson are thrilled to be so close to the place they called home for four years and can’t wait for Playa Bowls Boston to become a part of the community.
“To see it come full circle—it’s been almost a year now—to see it finally here, it’s super exciting,” Sarosh said. “To see it all conclude in something that you can see now, in something tangible, it’s a really cool feeling.”
Featured Images by Emerson DeBasio / Heights Editor