New in town

First Playa Bowls in Michigan opens in East Lansing

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“Welcome to Pineappleland.” That’s the slogan of the new Playa Bowls, a tropical-themed açaí shop that’s opening its first Michigan location in downtown East Lansing this weekend.  

Owner Diana Spencer said she fell in love with the New Jersey-based company when she lived there, before moving to Michigan. Now, she is preparing to host her own store’s grand opening at 11 a.m. Saturday (June 18) at 225 E. Grand River Ave., next to Potbelly Sandwich Shop. 

What’s on the menu? Several fruit-and-granola filled bowls, smoothies, juices and coffees. Of course, there’s ample açaí — a small blackish-purple berry found on South American palm trees. 

Spencer said East Lansing makes for the perfect location for the shop, which caters to both college kids and families alike. She is excited to bring the growing food trend to the community. “People want healthy, good food,” she said. “I’m excited to bring it to town, I think it’s going to be a great hit. It’s kind of like ice cream, where you kind of get addicted.” 

The whole concept started after the two co-founders made frequent trips to Panama and Costa Rica for surfing excursions. The entrepreneurs always ordered a beach bowl, which they ultimately dubbed “the playa bowl.” 

Playa Bowls serves açaí, pitaya (dragon fruit) bowls, coconut-based bowls and superfruit bowls with a bunch of various toppings. The menu also includes iced coffee, protein bites and fresh-pressed juices — as well as gluten-free and vegan options.  

“We specialize in having super high-quality ingredients, no added sugar and fresh fruit,” Spencer said. “Our açaí is flown in from Brazil, made in-house in New Jersey and then shipped to the stores. We don’t store it for more than 21 days. Really, it’s about serving the highest, freshest quality ingredients.” 

While Playa Bowls offers various healthy options, there are ways to add on some extra calories, for those with a super sweet tooth.  

“If you want to get that healthy dessert fix in, you can add peanut butter and Nutella, a hazelnut spread,” she suggested. Other yummy toppings include coconut flakes, agave nectar, chia seeds and honey, to name a few. 

The new East Lansing space, which seats about 20 people, has a lounge area with comfy chairs, fireplace, television and outlets for students working on their laptops. The interior design of the 1400-square-foot space includes surfboards, basket lights hanging from the ceiling and bright, hand painted murals.  

“You’ve got ocean waves, palm trees, mermaids, and pineapple heads,” Spencer said. “When you walk in, you’re going to see pineapples on the counter. It’s just a very tropical summer vibe. We want you to feel like it’s a slice of summertime.” 

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