By Rachel Jenkins
Photography by JPG Photography
What are the ingredients that make up an ideal healthy menu and can get Manayunk talking? For Boostin’ Bowls owner, Jenna Cardello, it was a new passion, a leap of faith, and one very super fruit.
A year ago, Jenna was a fairly new Manayunk resident with no previous experience owning a business. As a young professional, she recognized a common struggle among her peers to eat healthy while juggling an overloaded lifestyle. Though Jenna had gone to school for marketing and human resource management, she found an unexpected inspiration for her career in a funny-sounding super fruit taking over social media: the açaí berry (pronounced ah-sah-EE). Originating in the warmer climates of Brazil, açaí is a sweet, dark blue berry that grows on a palm tree, and has been hailed as a super fruit by west coast celebrities and health enthusiasts.
“It has a lot of health benefits — antioxidants, it’s good for your heart, it’s good for weight loss, it’s good for your skin, your digestive system — all kinds of good stuff,” Jenna said.
Since she opened the doors to Boostin’ Bowls at 100 Levering Street in September 2017, Manayunk has been buzzing about the berry, too. As a town on the go, this district knows eating healthy can require time that many of us don’t have. Jenna’s mission for her shop is to create fruit bowls based on the benefits of açaí — a quick but nutritious option for busy professionals.
To create each bowl, Jenna starts with açaí juice blended with a banana base thickener and crushed ice. Next, she adds only fresh produce from the Philadelphia area to boost the base. Then, comes the fun part: thinking up an exciting menu with a mix of healthy flavors and guilty pleasures. A few crowd-pleasers are the Boostin’ Bowl (blueberries, strawberries, and granola), the Monkey Bowl (banana, chocolate chips, and granola; named after her lovable shop pup), and her versatile fruit smoothies. Boostin’ Bowls customers can also get creative and build their own bowl to fit their taste.
“Sometimes, I have people recommend things to me or they will make their own bowl and I’ll think, ‘That sounds pretty cool,’” Jenna said. “It’s a lot of trial and error.”
Like the fresh fruit in her signature bowls, Jenna’s menu is highly seasonal. In her six months of business, she’s learned to adapt her offerings based on the public mood as temperatures change throughout the year. Back in September when the store first opened, the menu was still focused on lighter fruit bowls and fresh salads. As winter approached, Jenna expanded the menu to include hearty oatmeal bowls, bagels, and ‘Power Toast’ specials like Avocado or Banana Peanut Butter. It’s all about what packs a nutritional punch, but still hits the spot.
Jenna’s trendy menu has its fair share of local fans, but her biggest cheerleaders are her parents — especially her mother and business partner, Kathy. Before she opened Boostin’ Bowls, Jenna’s family was nervous for her to dive into a business venture with no experience in the industry. Surrounding the “long six months” before her grand opening, Jenna worked hard to create an effective business plan. The end result impressed her parents so much that Kathy wanted to take the risk along with her daughter. Now, she’s become Jenna’s closest partner and menu confidant.
“Sometimes with family, it can be tricky, but with my mom it’s not,” Jenna said. “My go-to taste testers are my mom, my roommates, and my friends up at Franzone’s.”
Much is yet to come for Boostin’ Bowls in 2018. With warmer months ahead, Jenna has plans to introduce more warm weather-inspired fruit bowls featuring tropical ingredients like pineapple and mango. Smoothie devotees can stay tuned for new combos. Jenna also hopes to start adding more homemade elements to her bowls and collaborate with other like-minded entrepreneurs who strive to make healthy food accessible — and with love.
It may have gone viral on the west coast, but it’s clear that back east, Manayunk has taken to the açaí berry — and Jenna. In less than a year, her first business has been met with warmth and success, and she’s gained loyal customers and neighborhood friends. Plus, Jenna’s açaí bowls are as pretty as a picture.
“I feel extremely grateful that I have such a supportive community. I never in a million years thought that I would open my own business in Manayunk,” she said, “It’s flattering that people have supported me in such a short time.”
Jenna’s popular bowls and her win for Best Healthy Menu Item are a testament to her growth and adaptability as a business owner, and her readiness to connect with neighborhood customers. She’s brought her passion for nutrition and the açaí berry into the limelight, and it’s changed the local conversation about how healthy food can be made easy. Now, Manayunk is a place Jenna and the demystified açaí berry can proudly call home.
“If there was going to be a place to open an açaí and smoothie place, this would be it,” Jenna said. “I just really felt like this was the place I was supposed to be.”