By MADDY VITALE
For anyone who wants something that looks too good to eat, take a picture of an acai, pitaya, coconut or banana bowl from one of the Playa Bowls locations in Ocean City and Sea Isle City.
And then take a bite.
Not only are the treats scrumptious looking, they are flavorful delights for the many customers who lined up at both locations recently at the Promenade Food Court in Ocean City and 33 42nd Street in Sea Isle to give their orders – while socially distancing.
The bowls are just as healthy as they are great tasting. They are loaded with vitamins, fresh fruits, veggies and even tailored to specific dietary needs, explained the owner of the two franchise locations, Joe Wallash, of Dennis Township.
“We cater to all dietary issues at Playa Bowls in the Promenade Food Court in Ocean City and in Sea Isle. If you have allergies, if you want to control what is in the bowl, what vitamins you would like, we will cater to the customer,” Wallash said.
Some of the bowls to choose from are 8th Ave., which features pure acai topped with granola, banana and honey, the Coco Bowl, a coconut blend topped with granola, banana and honey and an Electric Mermaid, which is a pitaya blend with granola, kiwi, pineapple, mango, coconut flakes and honey.
People took their takeout to dine at tables in the food court or outside at a table or two at the Sea Isle business, or grabbed their orders to go.
At a time when takeout and outdoor dining are allowed under Gov. Phil Murphy’s COVID-19 guidelines, Playa Bowls is doing well, Wallash said.
“We are blessed to have an online takeout system in place. We offer the community healthy options. I have a great staff. They make the customers number one,” Wallash noted.
He and his staff enjoy the customers at both locations. In Ocean City, there are many families.
“The Ocean City demographic of customers are families coming for day trips and vacations and kids coming in from surfing or from the skate park,” he said.
The first thing Wallash asks the customers there is, “How is Ocean City treating you today?”
Wallash bought the Ocean City franchise business in 2019 and just opened the Sea Isle location.
Wallash, 43, went to grade school in Sea Isle. The school closed in 2012, but he and his family still have fond memories of their time there.
“Sea Isle is near and dear to my heart. We played street hockey there. Sea Isle means so much to me. My dad helped me build that store from the floor up. We started building it before the (pandemic) shutdown and then we were allowed to build with Sea Isle’s OK, Wallash said. “The mayor (Leonard Desiderio) was really great to work with. He deserves a shout-out. He understands how important it is for small businesses to open.”
The Sea Isle business offers smoothies, as well as bowls.
The Aloha smoothie offers a blend of banana, mango, pineapple and coconut milk. The Booster smoothie gives a mix of banana, vanilla protein, flax oil, spirulina, peanut butter and cashew milk.
And the entire menu from bowls to smoothies ranges from $6.99 to $11.
Healthy, tasty options, reasonable prices and friendly service are what defines the success of Playa Bowls.
“I want people to feel appreciated. When they leave, they have gotten personalized service,” Wallash pointed out. “That is what people get and that is what contributes to the success we are having.”
The Sea Isle location hasn’t had a grand opening yet since it opened during the pandemic. Wallash hopes to host a celebration when it is safe to do so, but he anticipates it may be a while from now.
In the meantime, Wallash and his staff enjoy offering customers something that they may be trying for the first time, or for the 10th time.
And for someone who had limited experience in the food and restaurant industry, Wallash admits, he is doing well, but says it is because of the great people who work with him.
Back in 2012, he was laid off from two pharmaceutical jobs. When he decided to try another field, he went to a coffee shop to ponder his future.
“I sat down at a Starbucks and jotted down my goals,” he said.
Friends in the surfing industry told him about the healthy ingredients in the fruit bowls and smoothies. It was an idea for a business that didn’t involve too much food, but offered something to highlight healthy living. What came of it were two businesses that are growing.
“My plan was to do something simple — something good,” Wallash said. “I think I did it.”