How one New Yorker went from selling acai bowls out of an Italian ice shack to creating his own franchise
When Jason Mazzarone moved back home to Long Island after graduating from culinary school in San Diego, he began searching for his niche. He knew he wanted to be in the culinary world and needed to mold a brand that would stand out in the market. While at school on the West coast, Mazzarone found himself searching for a healthy on-the-go meal option: acai bowls. He became addicted to the meal, but when he got back to New York, he started going through withdrawals and noticed they were nowhere to be found.
“I started making my own acai bowl recipes and selling them out of my mom’s Italian ice shackin Long Island. Soon after, business owners I looked up to would be standing in lines outside of the shack, even in the dead of winter, for my recipe. I had an ah-ha moment one winter day and told my mom this was going to be big,” Mazzarone said.
And it was.
Mazzarone started renting out half of a Long Island deli and selling his acai bowls to the community. Now, only three years after his opening in 2014, Mazzarone has created a brand that has built a name for itself up and down the East Coast. Known for its fresh, organic, gluten and dairy-free ingredients, SoBol offers a simple menu with limitless customizable bowls of fresh fruit, nut butters, coconut and honey.
In SoBol’s first year, Mazzarone opened nine locations, with three additional stores slated for opening in the month of October. Mazzarone has active plans in the works for 36 additional locations in Philadelphia, Rhode Island and Connecticut, as well as making development plans in Florida and Pennsylvania with a target on the younger demographic and college community.
“This is not where I thought I would be. I honestly thought I would open one location and that would be it but we are spreading out and beginning to conquer the East Coast. To grow this fast is scary but even more rewarding,” Mazzarone said.
Mazzarone says he offers much of his success to picking up on one of the biggest buzz words in the franchise world right now: healthy on-the-go. Customers are more health conscious now more than ever and want the option of fresh, natural meals. Mazzarone says SoBol is becoming a hot spot for young, healthy and happy people.
“You have to know who your target audience is. My consumer is the young entrepreneur, people who are eating healthy. Millennials are looking for a way to be excited every day and not be stuck in a box. There is unlimited potential. Acai bowls is the new ‘it’ thing and it’s a concept that is taking off like a rocket,” Mazzarone said.
There’s something else that Mazzarone says he owes much of his success to, but it’s not the ingredients or market research. He says it’s his mom, Sheila Smith. Mazzarone says she’s the person who saw something in him, believed in him and motivated him to keep going.
“She gave me my shot, my opportunity. My mom is my biggest cheerleader and someone I’m constantly learning from. Because of her and the seed she planted in me, I will have people eating our acai bowls in every town across America.”