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East Lansing becomes home to Michigan's first ‘Playa Bowls’ restaurant

May 12, 2022
<p>Playa Bowls on Grand River Avenue on May 11, 2022.</p>

Playa Bowls on Grand River Avenue on May 11, 2022.

Photo by Sheldon Krause | The State News

Playa Bowls is a New Jersey-based restaurant founded by Robert Giuliani and Abby Taylor, which multiplied into more than 140 stores nationwide. The restaurants offer acai, smoothies, smoothie bowls, oatmeal bowls, coffee, cold-pressed juices, etc.

And now, it's coming to East Lansing.

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Lansing resident Diana Spencer is from New Jersey, so she was familiar with Playa Bowls before moving to Michigan in 2020. Once she moved, she said she noticed some smoothie shops, but nothing tasted as good to her as Playa Bowls. This year, she anticipates opening her addition to the stores, making herself a franchisee at 225 E. Grand River Ave.

"We really specialize in our fruit bowls and smoothies, and we have no added sugar," Spencer said. "We have a larger variety, and our bases are made right in store. Our green base, which consists of kale and pineapples, and coconut milk, we make it right there in store, so nothing is like pre-made"

Spencer said that some events in her personal life also motivated her to become a restaurant franchise owner where she could reach a target audience of college students.

"I was getting engaged, and I got married and pregnant.", Spencer said." I was like, ‘You know what? My priorities are changing. I'm going to leave my career as a local news reporter in Lansing, and I want to own my own business.’"

Spencer said she is pushing for the opening to be the second week of June. With a new restaurant comes more job opportunities available where employees will have a chance to be behind the counter providing smoothies, bowls, juices and oatmeal bowls to customers.

"I've already hired 20 people, and I have my general manager,", Spencer said. "I am still hiring for the summer...I don't have as many people. That's something I'm still accepting applications for."

The New Jersey native also expressed her excitement about the establishment's summertime ambiance customers will be able to experience.

"You walk in the store, there are surfboards hanging from the ceiling," Spencer said. "We have an artist come in from New Jersey, and she comes in, (and) it could be anything from mermaids to an anchor on the wall that says ‘Playa Bowls - Michigan State.’ It's just a very tropical vibe inside the atmosphere, makes you feel like you're somewhere on vacation, to be honest."

With the building on Grand River Avenue, MSU students are eager to try the super fruit-infused beverages and bowls and incorporate healthier options into their daily lifestyle.

"I will be interested in trying one,” Human biology junior Amarri Johnson said. “I'm looking to introduce more of a variety of fruit and veggies to my diet, especially knowing that they are packed with nutrients ... I think that college students will like to be more mindful of the food they consume.“

Political science-prelaw junior Caleb Beebe said it's important to have healthy food options on MSU's campus.

"I think it's important because I do think it can help you do better in school," Beebe said. "I try to, but I'm not always. It's not always my main decision or main factor."

Although leaving her reporting job and starting a business is new for Spencer, she said she is not nervous.

"I always had the desire to own my own business," Spencer said. I just didn't know what it was. I'm used to dealing with a lot of people and making connections and relationships. It is a completely different field, so I am learning, but I'm excited."

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