By Mikki A.Ealey
Look out, all you health-conscious consumers and smoothie bowl lovers—there’s a new acai in town! Playa Bowls announced its grand opening in April 2023 in Avon, marking the third Playa Bowls location in Connecticut for Mitch Jackson. The two other locations are in West Hartford and Glastonbury.
Jackson was born and raised in Connecticut and is passionate about his community. While he works a full-time job in addition to being an entrepreneur, he always makes time for his family. When his college friend, Mike Bogdan, pitched the idea of opening a Playa Bowls to him he wasn’t sold at first. But Jackson believes in striving for success and providing high-quality products that community members can enjoy, so he took a leap of faith and invested in the franchise, which originated in New Jersey with founders Rob Giuliani and Abby Taylor. According to the Playa Bowls website, what began as a pair of blenders, a patio table, and a fridge has flourished into over 170+ stores, thousands of employees, and a mission to lead communities in healthy, sustainable living.
For Jackson, it’s been a great experience ever since, and an even greater benefit to the community.
Playa Bowls offers a variety of options on the menu, from acai bowls to smoothies and fresh juices. The bowls offer a base choice of acai, pitaya, coconut, greens, mango, banana and oatmeal, and are topped with a variety of fruits. The acai and pitaya (dragon fruit) are even from Brazil! Fresh juice blends of fruits and vegetables—including spinach, beets, kale, carrots, oranges and pineapple—are also a customer favorite. Playa Bowls love to switch things up from time to time to cater to the community, and for fun!
Playa Bowls bowls offer a base choice of acai, pitaya, coconut, greens, mango, banana and oatmeal, and are topped with a variety of fruits.
Customers will notice a unique look and feel when they visit Playa Bowls Avon, which features a sleek and interactive juice bar and a spacious seating area. Staff greet everyone who comes through the doors with big smiles and are happy to customize orders. A loyalty club also provides special perks for those who enroll.
For Jackson and Bogdan, the opening of this third location is exciting and a way to connect with even more people across Connecticut. So, when you get a craving for something healthy AND delicious, think of Playa Bowls and head to Avon or your closest location.
Playa Bowls Avon is located at 380 West Main Street, Avon, Connecticut and is open daily from 8:00am-9:00pm. Get more info on Facebook, Instagram or at www.playabowls.com.
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Photos courtesy of Fresh Start Cleaning CT.
By Sarah Thompson
DShaun Williams is following in his father’s footsteps, literally.
Born and raised in Hartford, his dad showed him from an early age what hard work and perseverance looked like. Almost every weekend, he would tag along to his father’s second job in commercial cleaning, a job that his dad is still doing 17 years later.
“I was raised solely by my Dad,” shared Williams. “His way of parenting was strict, but now, as a grown man looking back to when he took me to his cleaning accounts on Saturdays when I would rather be outside playing, I’m glad all that took place. He would bring me with him, and I would help out and see what he was doing.”
His father encouraged him along the way, explaining that cleaning businesses can be lucrative.
“That inspired me to go ahead and press go,” said Williams.
Williams met his business partner, Christopher Cho, whom he also refers to as his friend and brother, at a corporate job a few years ago.
“We were working a corporate job together and I was his boss, so it just so happened that we shared an office together,” he explained. “So, we grew close and it worked. I would throw out these crazy ideas and he would go with it and make it work.”
From there, Williams learned organization skills and lived by the mantra “whatever you have to do to make it work, make it work,” earning recognition and achievement awards along the way. "We are so confident in our abilities as a company, we offer our customers the first week of cleaning absolutely free of charge,” he explained.
Soon after, Fresh Start Cleaning CT was launched, in June of 2020. The business, with a team of eight employees, now provides commercial cleaning including dusting, window cleaning, floor buffing and carpet shampooing for large property management companies, medical offices and other facilities.
"All throughout my life I’ve been able to push right through [adversity] and to be honest, we couldn’t have picked a better time to start this endeavor."
“We can handle any aspect of any facility,” explained Williams. “The biggest challenge is the pandemic. People want to work from home, so to be able to provide a very clean and disinfected [work or office] environment is the utmost importance so we all, as a society, can eventually get back to some kind of normalcy.”
Despite COVID, Williams and Cho have seen a steady growth in businesses since their launch just seven months ago.
“When I look back on my life and my upbringing, for me, I like a challenge,” shared Williams. “That’s how I like it to be done. Everybody’s freaking out and people don’t want to come outside but in the turmoil we will rise. Like a phoenix.”
Launching a business isn’t the only new chapter Williams took on last year. He also has a new son who he affectionately named Phoenix.
“All throughout my life I’ve been able to push right through [adversity] and to be honest, we couldn’t have picked a better time to start this endeavor,” he shared.
Just as his father was dedicated to him, he is dedicated to his customers. And it shows.
“My customers know that they can expect from me that if it’s 3 o’clock in the morning and we’ve got to get something done, we’ll jump out of bed and get it done,” explained Williams. “I sent an email at 2 o’clock in the morning recently and we got a response by 9 o’clock that morning asking for a quote. So, just staying on it, not giving up, constantly pushing the limit, that’s my style and it works.”
Fresh Start looks forward to giving back to the community soon, too. “We must give back. It is a requirement,” he explained. “We have to show people that through adversity like the pandemic, they can still reach their goals and push forward towards their dreams.”
As for Williams, he’s always been interested in politics and changing the outlook of places like Hartford.
“One thing I learned coming up as a Black man is to always be ten times better. You have to be,” he shared. “Sometimes there’s this trustworthy factor—like hey, can I trust this guy? Or for a lot of people, their first scope into really having personal or business relationships with a Black person is through the lens that they saw on television. When I deal with people, it’s straight professionalism. I don’t subscribe to what they may have seen. It’s about being better than every other business and providing better service.”
At first glance, Williams and Cho might seem an unlikely pair.
“If you look at Chris and I, it’s what the country needs right now,” shared Williams. “We’re two people from totally different aspects of life, different upbringing, coming together to make something happen. I put a lot of faith in him, he puts a lot of faith in me and we make it work. With everything that’s going on right now, with the pandemic, with the whole cry for social justice, I feel like our story is very important for people to see.”
With each new opportunity to engage with a new or potential client, Fresh Start is inspiring others with their representation of unity.
Williams summed it up: “We represent what America can be…and clean!”
Fresh Start Cleaning CT is located at 304 West Main Street in Avon, with services available throughout Connecticut and New York. Click here to learn more.
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