When Miami Dolphins defensive back Elijah Campbell and his wife Anisse relocated to South Florida in 2021, they missed eating healthy treats at Nautical Bowls so much that they decided to become franchisees and open their own locations here.
After his NFL career took him to a new team in Florida, the Campbells experimented with their own formulas in an attempt to recreate Nautical Bowls’ all-natural acai bowls. Unable to find another suitable substitute for the superfood concept that they enjoy, the couple found themselves franchise owners of the Minneapolis-based national chain.
For the first location of three stores they plan for the region, the Campbells chose the former location of Island Cheese Co., which closed this year in The Esplanade Shoppes on Marco Island.
“It was important to find the absolutely perfect location for our inaugural store,” Campbell said. “We surveyed many different centers, but once we laid our eyes on The Esplanade Shoppes, with its position along the water and its nautical theme, we knew immediately this was the right choice. The upscale nature of the center truly represents our brand.”
Founded in 2018 by another husband-and-wife team, Rachel and Bryant Anderson, Nautical Bowls now has scores of locations across the nation.
“My wife and I also find synergy, and are energized, in knowing that an entrepreneurial couple founded the concept,” said Campbell, 28.
The Campbells’ Marco location, planned to open later this year, will be the fourth area location for the chain. Other franchises of Nautical Bowls launched last October at Coconut Point in Estero, early this year in Shoppes at Vanderbilt in North Naples, and this summer in Stock Plaza at Lely Resort in East Naples.
The bowls are custom-made, beginning with a choice of six different bases including acai, coconut, mango and chia pudding. Honey oak granola is added, and customers have a choice of bananas, strawberries or blueberries, as well as dry toppings, drizzles and peanut butter protein crumbles. All ingredients are plant-based and free of gluten, dairy and soy ingredients.
“As a professional athlete, I need to be extremely vigilant about eating food comprised of all-natural and healthy ingredients, and my wife and I follow this philosophy with our entire family,” Campbell said. “We have tried an assortment of acai bowl recipes, and have also tried to invent our own, but nothing comes remotely close to the texture and flavor profile of the Nautical Bowls product line.”
After being a regular customer of the franchise in his native Minnesota for years, Campbell feels he and his wife made the right decision in choosing to be franchisees of the chain.
“In addition to having the smoothest tasting product in the category, Nautical Bowls differentiates itself by its customer service and welcoming environment. It is not long before the servers recognize you and call you by your first name. We wanted to be part of this culture,” he said.
Becoming an active participant in the local community is important to the family and is something they intend to do, Anisse Campbell said.
“The Marco Island community is extremely tight-knit, and we will explore ways to make a positive difference and become involved with important causes that impact local residents,” she said. “We feel strongly about this, and it is the right thing to do.”
Nautical Bowls is a good addition to the tenant mix at The Esplanade Shoppes, said Kristina O’Keefe, vice president of the commercial division of Continental Realty Corp., the Baltimore-based company that owns The Esplanade Shoppes.
“The fast-growing franchise will offer the community healthy options for breakfast, lunch and dinner and complement the active lifestyle of people who reside in or visit Marco Island,” O’Keefe said.
With the signing of Nautical Bowls for Suite 112, the 51,000-square-foot retail center at 740 N. Collier Blvd. is fully leased. Kelsi Holman, commercial leasing manager for Continental, and Rob Carroll of Investment Properties Corp. of Naples represented the landlord; and Ty Hensley of Estero-based Trinity Commercial Group represented the tenant in the transaction.
Other restaurants in The Esplanade Shoppes include CJ’s on the Bay, Deep Lagoon Seafood & Oyster House and Mango’s Dockside Bistro. Cold Stone Creamery is next door to Nautical Bowls’ unit.