“It was all her,” says Peter Kalogeropoulos, referring to his 20-year-old daughter Oliva, who is now also his business partner.
Olivia and her younger sister Alexis, 18, were working at the local SoBol in their hometown of Wantagh, Long Island, when their journey to entrepreneurship began. The girls expressed their love for the growing brand, and the idea to become franchisees came from a passing conversation at home.
“I think I jokingly said, ‘Oh, I’ll call corporate,’ and then I did,” Olivia laughs.
“And then it basically just snowballed into Bay Terrace,” her father adds.
For Olivia and Alexis, who are already familiar with the company’s culture and practices, opening up a SoBol made sense. What started out as a comment in jest quickly became a reality as Olivia, who is currently studying to be a teacher, realized it was an opportunity to start a business without building it from scratch.
She was also able to throw a little bit of her own personality into the mix, having created all the artwork for the Bay Terrace location, including a handpainted SoBol logo on one of the walls.
Both girls left their positions at the Wantagh SoBol for their franchise venture, and Olivia even quit her second job as a hairdresser.
“And now we’re here, but I’m glad we’re here,” she says. “I’m very adventurous, so if it’s a good move I’m going to go for it. I’m not afraid.”
Peter, who himself held a long career in the telecommunications corporate world, was happy to financially back his daughters for a project that will ultimately provide them with valuable lessons in life.
“I did it for them,” he notes. “It’s a huge experience, and hopefully it will bring them financial stability in the future.”
Olivia, Alexis and Peter will take turns running the business on-site, with the help of a trusted staff. The family also has tremendous faith in the product they are selling.
“It’s an extremely fresh product, and I think that’s important because there are no preservatives and no ingredients you cannot pronounce,” said Peter, though he admits people sometimes have trouble with the word “açai.”
The brand offers a menu of customizable açai, green and pitaya bowls, as well as smoothies, hearty soups and Belgian waffles. SoBol puts emphasis on those with dietary restrictions, offering vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free and nut-free options.
Produce is delivered daily from local purveyors, and franchise locations receive açai blend re-ups every other day.
Many of the drinks and grab-and-go snack items available at each store come from local vendors. At the Bay Terrace SoBol, the company partners with the Long Island-based Laurel’s Butter.
SoBol takes pride in offering customers a high-quality, healthy alternative within the landscape of fast casual dining options. Founder and CEO Jason Mazzarone, a Long Island native, drew inspiration for the business from time he spent in Southern California, where the açai bowl demand first began.
“I came home and I was so excited to have a bagel, a bacon egg and cheese and seven slices of pizza,” recalls Mazzarone. “And then all of a sudden you realize you can’t do this every day forever.
“I think for a while we were all just settling for whatever we could jam down our mouths and get back to work,” he adds, pointing to the fast-paced lifestyle of New Yorkers. “But people want to feel good after that food.”
Mazzarone experimented with an açai recipe at his family’s successful ice house before recognizing the potential for the product in the northeast market.
Not only does he have a culinary degree, but Mazzarrone has also worked in all aspects of the restaurant and hospitality industry. He partnered with co-founder Jim Kalomiris, who brought to the table more than 20 years of experience in restaurant management, real estate and construction, and in 2014 the first SoBol was born.
In the last three years, SoBol’s presence has exploded from two stores to 40 locations along the east coast, including locations in Florida, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Mazzarone says that several other locations are in the works across the U.S., and are set to open over the next few years.
Though these days Mazzarone puts most of his energy into the next phase of SoBol, he still loves to serve customers. He shows up to every grand opening and relies on a hardworking corporate team, dedicated franchisees and the people they hire to carry out his values.
“There’s nothing better than putting a smile on somebody’s face,” said Mazzarone. “I think that’s a big reason why we’ve been successful to this point. Now, it’s about finding franchisee’s that we think can instill that same high standard for the customer’s experience and cares about the community they’re in.”
It appears the SoBol mission has found a good home in the Kalogeropoulos family. Right now, hours for the Bay Terrace location are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., but Peter, who is a Queens native and still has roots in the borough, says he is willing to open the doors at 7 a.m. if that’s what the customers need.
The family hopes to open another location in the near future, once the team gets settled with the first store.
“It’s a learning curve for both of us,” admits Peter before Oliva finishes his sentence.
“But it all works out in the end,” she jumps in.