Van Hatziyianis spent 25 years working on Wall Street as an investment banker. In 2017, he began looking for something new. He found it in Bahia Bowls.
On Friday, Bahia Bowls celebrated the grand opening of its newest location, downtown Fort Myers at 2272 First St. The health-food dining concept took first took shape in Estero at Shoppes at Grande Oak, the Publix-anchored shopping center near Miromar Outlets. Since then, a corporate location was added to Midpoint Plaza off Santa Barbara Boulevard in Cape Coral and a franchise in the Promenade at Naples Centre in North Naples. A Bahia Bowls franchisee also plans to open another location in October at The Center of Bonita Springs on the northwest corner of U.S. 41 and Bonita Beach Road. Bowls, smoothies, salads and wraps comprise the bulk of the menu.
In Fort Myers, Hatziyianis bought out the lease of what for years had been a Subway sandwich shop. “I knew it was a prime spot,” Hatziyianis says. “Downtown is a vibrant area. Up and coming and growing. It’s kind of the epicenter. When tourists come, that’s one place they gravitate to. Now that there’s a hotel there, The Luminary, they’re doing a ton of development there. And not just for tourism. Two blocks away from us, they’re going to be building another hotel. There’s a ton of development going on there. When I look downtown, that’s one area that’s really kind of a prime area.”
Other than the nearby Green Cup Café, there weren’t any downtown restaurants that specialized in healthy foods, he said. “You can go and get a great meal and you have some healthy options on any of the menus there,” Hatziyianis says. “But you don’t have much that’s geared toward just healthy food options. I thought this could be a prime opportunity.”
The ongoing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic played into the Bahia Bowls concept, he said. “When COVID hit in March of last year, everything stopped,” he said. “In Florida, everything started picking up sooner. Everybody started getting back to their routines. Young people, people of all ages, they’re looking for healthy lifestyles. We’ve been able to capitalize on that. That’s what’s been good.”
Photo courtesy of Bahia Bowls