From one rainforest to another: acai bowls

Erik Scholl, owner of Gla-Scholl Grinds, has opened a new stand at the Alaska Club's valley location, now serving acai bowls.

People started gathering outside of the Alaska Club’s Mendenhall Valley location midafternoon on July 18. With the sweltering summer weather, it wasn’t the gym that drew people to the front of the building but the food stand situated by the entrance. Gla-Scholl Grinds was hopping with people looking for cool relief or a tasty treat, but owner Erik Scholl was able to get away for a few minutes to sit at one of the tables nearby to talk to the Empire about his new stand.

 

Gla-Scholl Grinds started off as a food cart downtown serving shaved ice, but now they’re in the valley with an expanded menu with one item that fits to be served in front of a health and fitness center: acai bowls.

Acai bowls are made of acai berry puree blended with other ingredients, topped with a variety of fresh fruits, and sometimes complemented by flax seed, granola, nuts and other toppings. Acai berries are widely consumed across the country for antioxidants, vitamins and other purported health benefits.

“It’s a superfood found in the Brazilian jungle,” Scholl said as he began recounting the history of how the berry travelled from the Amazon Rainforest to Hawaii and California.

Thanks to Gla-Scholl Grinds, Juneau is now getting a taste for it as well.

Scholl said he never thought he would be the one to make acai bowls big in Juneau, but his girlfriend Tianna Chelsy convinced him otherwise. She kept trying to get him to eat them at home, but he hadn’t been interested. He only really became interested when he had the opportunity from the Alaska Club to open a stand outside their gym – it no longer seemed appropriate to only serve sugary, shaved ice. The stand needed something that those trying to live a healthy lifestyle could benefit from. That’s when he revisited the idea of acai bowls.

Scholl gives a lot of credit to Chelsy, calling her the brains of the operation. She now currently helps him co-manage the business.

Together the couple researched acai bowls online and then tried to figure out what would work with their limited space, considering factors like weather and that they would have to take down the stand every night.

“We came with pen and pad, wrote out a menu and just went with it,” he said.

They read up on the history of the berry, learning that Acai can be found in Central and South America. It was only accessible to those living in the Amazon Rainforest until the 1970s when the frozen pulp was able to be transported frozen to Brazil cities like Rio where it became popular. From there, in the 1980s founder of Brazilian Jujitsu fighting style Carlos Gracie invented the acai bowl and it became a staple of his diet to assist with his training. The acai bowl didn’t make its way to the U.S. until the 1990s and became popular in surfers’ diets in California and Hawaii. Now the superfood’s frozen puree can be found at many health food markets and juice bars across the U.S. This same puree is what Scholl uses in the acai bowls.

For the menu, the couple decided that customers can choose from three specialty bowls with the toppings and bases already paired for simplicity, or they can request a unique combination if they’re looking for something specific.

Scholl said Gla-Scholl Grinds developed a good reputation for their shaved ice, which they have been serving for over a year now, but with acai bowls, people were unsure about it since it’s a relatively new food item in Juneau. But so far, business has been good. Even the musubi, another new food item, which is made from spam, rice and dried seaweed, has done well. Scholl said sometimes a customer will come by during lunch, buy a couple and then drive off again.

“In this town…word of mouth is very huge, it’s really important to make that first impression.”

Now the business has seven part-time employees who assist with the stand.

The business is open when the weather permits, so sometimes it can be open six days straight and then sometimes the business can be closed for several days in a row due to rain. To know if they’re open, looking outside to see what the sky looks like is usually a good indicator. If weather permitting, they’re open to business 11 a.m.- 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. As a seasonal business they’re closed three fourths of the year as as a drop-by food stand. Throughout the year though, they cater for events, such as birthday parties or fundraisers. To learn more about Gla-Scholl Grinds visit their Facebook page.

Scholl said he is looking into other projects to continue to expand, and wants to open a storefront for next summer. That’s a big deal, considering he never even thought about owning his own business when he was working for restaurants or bartending, but then his shaved ice business took off a year ago.

To anyone who wants to own their own business but are unsure, he said “I hear a lot of people come up with ideas and go ‘Oh, I want to do this, I want to do that.’ A lot of people say it but they don’t do it. My advice would be just go for it. Take the risk. Don’t talk about it. Be proactive. Hard work is the number one key to success for anybody.”

What’s on the menu?

For acai bowls, customer can choose between three acai bases before choosing toppings. The classic blend base is made of acai, banana, strawberries, almond milk, cookie butter and blue agave. The anykine blend is made of acai, banana, blueberries, strawberries, chocolate protein powder and chocolate almond milk. The koa blend is made of acai, banana, blueberries, strawberries, chocolate protein powder and chocolate almond milk. From there, customers can pick from a variety of toppings like bee pollen, hemp seed, raspberries, kiwi and more. Or, they can order one of the specialty bowls and not worry about pairing bases with toppings.

• Contact Clara Miller at 523-2243 or at clara.miller@juneauempire.com.

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