One of Brooklyn’s most storied business districts has welcomed a new member to the community. On Wednesday, SoBol Bed-Stuy opened its doors with great fanfare.

Located at 531 Nostrand Ave – sandwiched between Atlantic Avenue and Fulton Street – the shop is the first Brooklyn franchise of Long Island-based SoBol Café. The chain specializes in making delicious and healthy acai bowls.

SoBol Bed-Stuy receives citation at its grand opening. Photo: Nigel Roberts

Elected officials were on hand to welcome franchise owners Paul Roberson, Ainsworth Robinson and Ahmed Jerome to the neighborhood.

At the ribbon cutting ceremony, Councilmember Robert Cornegy Jr., whose district includes Bed-Stuy and Northern Crown Heights, delivered a citation to the business partners on behalf of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

Acai comes to Bed-Stuy

The store’s sign was up long before the official opening and folks in the neighborhood had been looking forward to the grand opening, Roberson told BK Reader.

Curious people frequently dropped in to inquire about the new business and its menu. About half of them were familiar with acai (pronounced ah-sigh-EE). Others had questions about the exotic sounding fruit.

The acai berry is native to the tropical rainforests of South America. It’s widely recognized as a superfood because it contains antioxidants, fiber and a host of vitamins and minerals.

SoBol Acai Bowl Bedford Stuyvesant. Photo: Nigel Roberts

“We blend absolutely fresh ingredients every day,” Jerome, who will oversee daily operations, told BK Reader.

Their signature acai bowl is a parfait of blended acai and strawberries between two layers of granola, topped with strawberries, bananas, and blueberries, sprinkled with coconut, drizzled with honey and a splash of soy milk.

The café also offers vegan options and work arounds for allergies. An assortment of other healthy foods is also offered.

Launching during a pandemic

SoBol Bed-Stuy opened its doors during a deadly pandemic that crushed many small businesses in Brooklyn and killed many in the community.

SoBoL Bed-Stuy owners Paul Roberson; Ainsworth Robinson; Ahmed Jerome. Photo: Provided.

Jerome said there were definitely challenges ahead, however, the pandemic made more people health conscious. Sales across the SoBol chain had increased by 30% in online orders during the pandemic.

Cornegy told the business partners that the community’s political and business leaders “are at the ready” to help them succeed. “We look forward to you being on this strip for many, many years to come,” he added.

“Thank you for bringing this to the community at a time when we need it, when small businesses are struggling,” 25th Senate District’s Senator-elect Jabari Brisport said.

Assembly Member-elect Stefani Zinerman of the 56th Assembly District said they chose a location where business owners help each other. “The way that we are all going to recover is by working hand-in-hand,” she added.

The trio plans to start a second Brooklyn franchise, slated to open early next year in Williamsburg.

Full circle experience

Launching their first SoBol Acai bowl in Bed-Stuy had special meaning.

“Not only is Bedford-Stuyvesant the hottest neighborhood in Brooklyn, but Paul and I grew up in this community and have family here,” Jerome said.

“I came back as an adult and was able to manage a bank in Bedford-Stuyvesant. And now, it was super important to come back and open a business here because this community basically raised me.”

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Nigel Roberts

Nigel Roberts is a New York-based, award-winning freelance journalist. During his career, Nigel has written for several newspapers and magazines. He has extensive experience covering politics and was a...

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