Jason Mazzarone, Founder and CEO of SoBol, a quick-serve açai brand started the company in 2014 in his hometown of Long Island, NY. Since first launching, the brand has grown to 36 locations, 32 of which are franchisee-operated. In April of 2018, the company made the decision to expand from the New York market into Pennsylvania, specifically Philadelphia.
While Philly has always been known for its cheesesteaks, entrepreneurs Dan Nestor and Mike Quinn were looking to offer Philadelphia natives a healthier alternative. They ultimately decided to open SoBol, giving them the ability to serve up heart-healthy, all-natural and fresh açai bowls to their customer base.
“Mike and Dan were so invested in the idea of SoBol due to the great product, and overall business model that they decided to sign a multi-unit deal for six locations,” said Nick Pesko, Marketing Manager for SoBol. “They have put together a strong management team to assist in bringing the açai business to their community.”
The first Pennsylvania location opened in Rittenhouse and was chosen due to its proximity to Philadelphia’s corporate district. The second opened in University City, where the University of Pennsylvania’s campus sits.
“Mike and Dan knew that they could offer up grab-and-go options for professionals in the area that are looking for fast and healthier meals,” said Pesko. “The marketing decisions the team has made in conjunction with the chosen locations have proven successful, as both locations in Philadelphia have ranked in the top five out of all 32 franchise locations across the system for the last several months. Same-store sales continue to increase and the team is excited about opening more locations in their territories within the next couple years.”
Most recently, the company has branched out from Philadelphia, opening a new location in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Michael DiSante, one of the newest SoBol franchisees first started off his career at a large grocery chain where he rose through the ranks before getting the entrepreneurial itch, ultimately turning to franchising with Philly Pretzel Factory. Throughout the past 10 years, DiSante has opened many franchises in southeastern Pennsylvania and is looking forward to now bringing SoBol to residents of the Lancaster community.
With Philadelphia proving to be a great market for the brand, along with its recent opening in Lancaster, SoBol now has its sights set on additional markets across the state, including Reading, Butler, Allentown, Pittsburgh, Westchester and York.
“New York and Pennsylvania have a lot of similarities,” said Robin Graf, Director of Sales and Business Development for SoBol. “There is a strong suburban market and lots of space for real estate. We ultimately look at it as an offshoot of Long Island. Philadelphia is only a three-hour drive from our headquarters in Patchogue so it’s very easy for us to get in a car and visit the franchisees there as well, should they ever need our support.”
The brand has already opened five new locations in 2019 and is expecting to open another eight before the end of the year. Each SoBol location can introduce anywhere from 18 to 25 jobs.
“The Pennsylvania area has been looking for something like this over the last few years,” said Graf. “Fortunately, we were one of the first to be out there and it’s speaking for itself in terms of the success we are already seeing in the state.”