This summer, Dana Linden became one of dozens of new SoBol owners in the New York area. The New York native had explored a number of different business opportunities before signing on with the acai brand, but with SoBol, she believes she has finally found the right fit. In fact, Linden is already planning to open her second SoBol location in Merrick, New York this winter.
Linden began her career in advertising and worked for an agency for nearly a decade before she decided that she wanted to own her own business.
“I always worked best when I was managing myself, and I always wanted to be my own boss,” said Linden. “So I was looking for an opportunity to own a business for myself, I just wasn’t sure exactly what.”
After leaving her advertising job, Linden opened up a furniture store with her husband in Westchester, which she ran successfully for eight years before moving to Florida, where she opened another store. Linden and her husband would move back to New York again, then back to Florida, then back to New York, operating different business concepts with each relocation, including two restaurants and a dry-cleaning business.
Though none of her various business opportunities had presented the perfect fit, Linden was increasingly drawn to the food service industry.
“I like the food business,” Linden said. “I’d gone to culinary school for baking, and I enjoyed my restaurant jobs, so I was looking for something in that area that I could own.”
While Linden was working in a deli and looking for ownership opportunities, two of her friends came to her with an idea. Linden’s friends owned an Italian ice store that was located next to a SoBol store, and they were intrigued by the concept. They knew Linden was shopping opportunities, so they pitched the idea of investing in a SoBol together.
“We went to look at the SoBol, and I was impressed,” said Linden. “It was an interesting concept, and it was very busy. We went in and took a look around and tried the bowls and it really felt like the right fit.”
So, Linden and her friends put in a franchisee application with SoBol, and they quickly heard back from the brand’s development team. A few months later, Linden was the co-owner of SoBol’s Long Beach store.
Long Beach has proven to be an ideal location for a SoBol store. The acai bowl concept has proven a big draw year-round, but the summer months are particularly lucrative in the beach town.
“We’ve seen an enormous amount of business this summer,” Linden said. “We’re in a beach town, so there’s a ton of foot traffic and lots of people looking for a treat. We’re also right next to a gym, and we get a lot of business from the post-workout crowd, which we expect to stay active throughout the winter months.”
Linden’s success with the gym crowd is not unique to her store. Jason Mazzarone, SoBol’s co-founder, president, and CEO, said that SoBol has carved out a growing niche for itself within the health and fitness community.
“As health and wellness continue to play a major role in people’s lives, there’s a real demand among consumers—not just in New York but across the country—for a more nutritious meal option that doesn’t sacrifice great taste,” said Mazzarone. “By creating SoBol, we’ve been able to get in on the ground level of the booming acai movement. Because this type of concept is so new, we have the opportunity to position ourselves at the forefront of the increasingly competitive industry.”
Now Linden and her friends-turned-business-partners are leveraging the success they’ve found with the Long Beach store to open a second store in Merrick, but Linden is still focused on being a hands-on owner in Long Beach.
“I open the store every morning, I make coffee, I make bowls, I handle the social media, and I talk to customers all day long,” said Linden. “The days just fly by. I love working with customers, and I like to be around to do whatever needs to get done. As an owner, my only priority is making sure customers are happy.”
As for the new store, Linden is hoping to work with the brand to introduce menu innovations that will help further accelerate SoBol’s growing popularity.
“I’m always interested in thinking of new products we could add that would keep people excited to come in and try new things,” Linden said. “With the new store, we’d like to be the first to test out any new offerings.”
The Long Beach SoBol is an express store, focused on acai, pitaya, and smoothies, but Linden’s determination to extend the brand’s offerings is in line with Mazzarone’s vision for the brand, whose full-service stores do not begin and end with acai bowls.
“There’s no doubt that acai bowls are our specialty,” said Mazzarone. “We’ve perfected our method of creating perfectly blended bowls that are filled with unique flavors and tastes. But at many of our locations, the menu doesn’t end there. It has always been our mission to provide our guests with top quality food that inspires them to make healthy choices for the rest of their day. That’s why our full-service locations feature a full lineup of soups, salads, and sandwiches, aligning with our commitment to finding the right balance between taste and nutrition.”
Still, Linden knows that acai is the main attraction, and she has no interest in shifting the spotlight to anything else.
“I love introducing people to acai,” Linden said. “A lot of people don’t know what it is, then they come in and try it, and they are hooked. I love that. And ours is the best introduction to acai. People try other places, and sometimes they like it, sometimes they don’t. But our recipe is amazing, and it’s perfectly consistent. People always like what they get here.”
Linden predicts that SoBol’s recipe will continue to draw more interest to the concept, and in turn, the brand will continue to take on new franchisees.
“It’s a great model for new franchisees,” said Linden. “The initial investment is low, the store buildout is inexpensive, and they offer great training. You really start to see results from day one. I’ve opened other businesses before, and there are normally so many variables that you don’t see coming, so it takes a while to get on your feet, but with SoBol, you are set up and ready go the day you open."