Acai bowls, a Brazilian frozen smoothie dessert, have become more and more popular as people post pretty pictures of these colorful, tasty and healthy meals all over social media.
And for over one year, The Fruit Stand has been bringing the trending treat to the Kent community. With topping options ranging from fresh strawberries and pineapple to sweet chocolate chips and oreos, customers can build their own acai bowl for breakfast, lunch and dinner at the shop located in Acorn Alley.
Owner Jason Carpinelli opened the store in the midst of the COVID pandemic in January 2021. While other businesses were closing up shop or cutting hours, he was able to take advantage of a more desolate downtown Kent.
“We opened basically at the height of the pandemic, and that’s how I got the space because there were a lot of open spaces downtown,” Carpinelli said. “I don’t really know what business is like with it not being COVID. If anything, it didn’t affect us in any way. We did social distance, and we wore marks.”
Despite the fact that “everything seemed so bleak” during the pandemic, Carpinelli said that the risk of opening his business as others were shutting down gave him the confidence to continue his venture.
“If anything, [COVID] played to my benefit,” Carpinelli said. “In my mind, I was like ‘this is a great time to start a business because if I can make it work during the worst possible time, I can probably make it work when this is over.”
Since it’s opening, The Fruit Stand has grown to serve around 250 to 500 customers a day. Carpinelli attributed his business’ reach to customers’ Instagram and Snapchat stories.
“The power of social media, with people taking photos of the bowls is definitely how we grew so quickly,” Carpinelli said. “That was probably the biggest factor.”
The shop has its own presence on Facebook and Instagram, where The Fruit Stand features its flavor of the week, which is the second base option along with the regular acai flavor for the smoothie bowls, different aesthetic topping combinations and general company updates. It was also announced on Facebook that the brand opened a second location in Cleveland February 5.
When describing his first year of owning The Fruit Stand, Carpinelli said his experience has “been fantastic.”
“It’s been really rewarding,” Carpinelli said. “It’s a lot of long hours and a lot of hard work, but it’s something that I enjoy a lot.”
During the triumphs and failures of building his business, Carpinelli said the moments where things didn’t go quite right stand out the most to him because it proved that he can work through even the most difficult problems and still be successful.
“I remember the most struggling parts when things don’t work and I had to figure it out,” Carpinelli said. “That to me is the most rewarding when I figured it out. Like when our soft serve machine which makes our smoothie base breaks, it’s like an adrenaline rush that I don’t enjoy but it’s super rewarding when I do get it fixed.”
While there are many different restaurant options downtown, Carpinelli said his business stands out from similar shops in the community because of its “build your own” feature and superior products.
“Our main focus is on the fresh-cut fruit bowl,” Carpinelli said. “We’re using fresh fruit, and you can see everything [when we’re making it], so we can’t throw mushy strawberries or bad blueberries in there. We only use the best stuff that we can find. You can match us on quality, but I wouldn’t say you’d be able to beat us because a lot of places aren’t using fresh fruit.”
Customers like senior middle childhood education major Shannon Carr agree. Carr said she thinks The Fruit Stand has “amazing and healthy food options.”
“I like to go there really often because of their weekly smoothie bowl base flavors,” Carr said. “My favorite would probably be the peach base.”
Carr also said she visits The Fruit Stand about once a week. From her time visiting the shop, she believed that its success was due to its great customer service.
“They have a wonderful staff that works hard to make customers feel welcomed,” Carr said. “The atmosphere is very welcoming and inviting. Employees are always willing to help and offer their suggestions, which makes me feel like they really enjoy what they’re doing. I think this is one of few places in Kent that has employees that really seem to enjoy working with the public, while serving good food.”
The Fruit Stand also offers fresh fruit bowls, oatmeal, avocado toast, coffee and pressed juices. It is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. For those new to smoothie bowls, Carpinelli emphasized that his business offers options that appeal to everyone.
“You can’t get a better acai bowl for a better price,” Carpinelli said. “Just the experience of being able to build your own bowl makes it worth it to check us out.”
Isabella Schreck is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].