Abby Taylor grew up chasing the waves of New Jersey beaches, only to be followed by scenic surfing trips to Nicaragua, Panama, California, Hawaii and Costa Rica, each adding unique flavors to her pursuit of a coastal and healthy lifestyle.
As Taylor became immersed in the cultures and tastes of locals alongside fellow surfer and New Jersey native Rob Giuliani, inspiration soon struck.
After returning to their hometown of Belmar, New Jersey, the pair set up a makeshift stand on the sidewalk in front of a local pizza shop with a blender, patio table, fridge and freezer.
Taylor and Giuliani then recreated the acai and pitaya bowls they discovered during their exotic surfing trips and began selling the superfruit blends as the healthy alternatives local surfers were missing.
“I wanted to share my love and passion for acai bowls and healthy eating with everyone at the Jersey Shore,” Taylor said.
And with that original pop-up cart in 2014, the Playa Bowls brand was born. Co-founders Taylor and Giuliani have now sold hundreds of thousands of superfruit bowls and developed a company with thousands of employees across the east coast.
Not long before the exotic surfing trips or the mainstream success of building a superfruit powerhouse, though, Taylor was still just a Sea Gull.
Now making her first return to Salisbury University since graduating in 2011, Taylor is bringing a piece of her journey back to the community where she received her wings.
The alumna will be opening a new Playa Bowls location just across the street from her alma mater at 1012 S. Salisbury Blvd. in the Clairmont Shopping Center at 11 a.m. Saturday. The Salisbury franchise will be the chain’s second location on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and the 106th nationwide.
Custom shirts and free bowls will be given away to the first 50 customers during the grand opening.
Tony Martina, one of the franchisees for both the Easton and Salisbury shops, brought the idea of adding the new location to Taylor, who immediately knew it would be a “really good fit” after spending time in the area during her college years.
A Salisbury native and fellow SU alumnus, Martina said he was excited to bring the “fun, beach-style atmosphere” Taylor has created for stores to the area where he was raised.
“I think Salisbury being the ‘capital’ of the Eastern Shore and being close to a wonderful university make it a fantastic location,” Martina said. “What excites me most is to come home … [that] makes it really special.”
Taylor believes the shop’s range of healthy superfruit bowls — from acai to coconut to pitaya — as well as smoothies and juices will benefit the active campus population and those more health-conscious about their dieting choices.
As for her go-to menu item, Taylor said an acai bowl topped with granola, banana, strawberries, coconut flakes and peanut butter is something she can never turn down.
Aside from her responsibilities as co-founder, Taylor also serves as Chief Marketing Officer for the Playa Bowls brand, managing the company’s marketing initiatives, social media platforms and in-store signage within stores across the country.
Taylor, who earned a bachelor’s degree in graphic design at SU, used the skills she gained through the university’s programs to design all the brand’s original flyers and menu boards to hand out on New Jersey beaches.
The CMO said she also painted many of the brand’s original stores and still produces a significant portion of Playa Bowls’ “Instagram-worthy” graphic design work.
The training at SU did come with hardship, however, as Taylor credits her mother’s encouragement for supporting her creative passions despite struggling in other classes.
“I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to do, I just knew it was going to be something creative, and I knew that I wanted to be my own boss and do my own thing,” Taylor said. “It wasn’t going to be a normal nine-to-five job for me … I always knew I wasn’t going to have a normal career path.”
Once into her major and art classes, Taylor vaulted onto the dean’s list, which she said felt natural simply because of her passion and love for the field.
Taylor encourages all current SU students to look to her story as proof of the potential every graduate possesses.
“I truly believe if I can do it, anybody can do it,” Taylor said. “I’m just a regular person who had an idea, and I was very passionate about it and I was willing to put in the work, so if you’re passionate about something, then you can succeed in anything you want to do."
“Do what you want for you because, at the end of the day, that’s what’s going to make you happy.”
By JAKOB TODD
Featured image courtesy of Abby Taylor.