During the College’s two-day break, many Bowdoin students living on campus found a moment of refreshment while enjoying free smoothie bowls sponsored by the Bowdoin Student Government (BSG). More than 1,000 students picked up a bowl from the newly-opened Bay Bowls on March 21 and 22, and the store’s owners are excited to continue serving the Brunswick community.
Bay Bowls is located at 210 Maine Street and serves bowls of blended açaí or pitaya topped with colorful fruit, granola and syrups. Sal and Soraia Matari P’20 opened the business this past January, and while they are new residents of Maine, as parents of a recent graduate, they are no strangers to the Brunswick area. They opened Bay Bowls after hearing about their daughter’s experience at Bowdoin.
“The idea [for Bay Bowls] came from my daughter that went to Bowdoin. We’ve always loved smoothies and açaí and would make that at home, and while Leah was at Bowdoin, she craved something like this,” said Solaria. “But there was nothing like [that] here.”
Seeing the opportunity to provide Brunswick with what their daughter was missing from home, Sal and Soraia moved to Maine in the midst of the pandemic and began planning their new business, from name and store design to the menu items.
The Mataris purchased the location in September and began renovations shortly thereafter. Opening their business during the pandemic allowed them to design the layout of Bay Bowls to accommodate for COVID-19 safety precautions—instead of coming inside the store, customers order at a counter outside the front door.
On January 30, Bay Bowls opened for business. Despite opening day being one of the coldest days of winter, the Mataris were received a warm reception.
“We had such a welcome from the community,” said Soraia. We [had] a line going around [the store]. So we were very excited! The Brunswick community has been absolutely amazing. From asking ‘how’re you guys doing?’ to saying ‘we’re so happy you’re here!’”
Bowdoin students were first able to come to Bay Bowls when Bowdoin went into campus status level “yellow.” However, most Bowdoin students got a taste of Bay Bowls with a free bowl sponsored by BSG as part of the its Polar Pause programing, which was meant to help students de-stress over the two-day break.
“I know that people have a lot of frustrations with administrative calendar issues around spring break, but hopefully this was just something that made the short weekend a little bit better,” said BSG Chair of Student Affairs Lily Tedford ’22 in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “We wanted to give people something that felt special. And it also worked well because we wanted to support a new local business.”
In preparation for Bowdoin students, Bay Bowls pre-made between 500 and 600 bowls before they opened to hand them out to Bowdoin students throughout the day. At the end of both days, all the bowls were gone.
Bay Bowls currently has six employees, not including the Mataris. Two of them are current Bowdoin students, and two more are recent Bowdoin graduates. The owners hope to expand their hours and hire more employees soon, and they are already considering opening a second location.