By Daniela Vivas
The acai craze is nationwide, and Princeton is no exception. A few steps away from the Princeton University campus are two popular acai bowl eateries, both family-run businesses owned by working moms who used to have 9-to-5 jobs.
Haydee Kapetanakis, 49, co-owns Frutta Bowls, on Nassau Street, with her husband, George, but she previously worked in human resources at a pharmaceutical company. She and her kids, who are 12 and 9, first tried acai four years ago and loved it. The store, which Kapetanakis calls their “little baby,” opened its doors in March. She’s very proud of providing jobs for 22 local residents.
A short distance away from Frutta Bowls is another well-known local business called Tico’s, which started in 2006 as the dream of a Costa Rican man and became the life of a whole family. Renee De Bernard, 48, co-owns the eatery with her husband, Ammel.
Tico’s started as a Latin food restaurant known for their tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and salads. De Bernard kept her day job, in accounting, until Tico’s was established enough for her to quit. When one of her customers introduced her to acai bowls two years ago, she added it to the menu. The superfood eventually became so popular that the kitchen ran out of space, and the couple decided to shrink the food choices on their menu.
Being part of the community for 12 years requires a lot of time and effort. De Bernard, her husband, and their two sons, 15 and 11, participate every Saturday in the West Windsor Community Farmers’ Market. At the market, the family offers acai bowls, smoothies, and juices from a food truck. It’s a way for the family to promote their business while staying involved in the community. In addition to the weekly market and their regular customers, the owners rely on their sons’ social-media skills to help them spread the word on Instagram and Facebook.
Despite two different initial approaches—Frutta Bowls jumped right into the acai trend, while Tico’s evolved from a Latin food restaurant—both businesses incorporate similar formulas for success: community outreach, family, and acai.