Brother and sister Laith and Leah Matari test a smoothie bowl at Bay Bowls, which will open in January. Hannah LaClaire / The Times Record

BRUNSWICK — The Matari family’s vision for a smoothie shop in Brunswick formed quickly, with the details fleshed out in a large family text chain, but the root of the idea goes back years to Leah and Laith Matari’s childhoods spent drinking homemade smoothies at the breakfast table. 

Bay Bowls, located in the former Smiley’s Ice Cream at 210 Maine Street, will serve smoothies and acai bowls— essentially, thick smoothie bowls made with Brazil’s antioxidant-rich Acai berries (pronounced ah-sah-EE, owner Sal Matari is quick to note) and topped with fruit, granola, seed and other toppings. 

“Healthy foods don’t have to be kale and lemon juice,” Laith Matari said, “they can be rich, flavorful and indulgent,” something he and his sister learned drinking the smoothies their mom, Soraia Matari always made. 

Plus, he said, “it’s the closest thing you can get to ice cream at 9 a.m.” 

From left, Leah, Laith, Soraia, Sal and Shanna Matari, members of a large family hoping to open a smoothie shop in downtown Brunswick later this winter. Hannah LaClaire / The Times Record

Leah Matari, a recent Bowdoin College graduate, said she and her friends used to drive all the way to Portland for the smoothie bowls they were craving. 

When she saw the former ice cream shop next to campus was vacant and available, she texted her parents, Sal and Soraia Matari. 

Opening a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic— or really at all— was never part of the plan. 

When their daughter bought a house in Bowdoinham and then another went to Bowdoin College, moving to Maine became part of the five-year-plan for the New Jersey couple, but once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it “became a ‘now plan,’” Soraia Matari said. 

Now that Sal Matari is working remotely, he has the time to put into the fledgling restaurant, doing most of the renovations himself to cut down on labor costs, and the family’s lack of restaurant experience isn’t a deterrent— with their large immediate family, cooking for a crowd is second nature. 

“We’re being very cautious,” Leah Matari said, noting that they are fortunate to be in a position to try something new during a time of uncertainty for so many. 

Bay Bowls, the name inspired by Merrymeeting Bay, channels Maine essence with rustic, recycled wood paneling, despite the bright flavors of the Brazilian berry. 

Bay Bowls is still missing a few pieces, like stools, a fully realized menu and set hours, but the Mataris hope to open sometime in Mid-January, pending various state approvals.

A coconut bowl from Bay Bowls, featuring a coconut base, banana, kiwi, blueberry, granola, honey and coconut flakes. The new smoothie and Acai bowl shop is scheduled to open sometime in January and the owners hope to offer something for residents that is equal parts indulgent and healthy. Hannah LaClaire / The Times Record

The owners hope it will be a warm, welcoming, spot for families, Bowdoin College students or retired folks taking advantage of Brunswick’s downtown walkability, as well as an opportunity to get people to try something, like acai, that they may have never heard of. 

At the other end of Maine Street, in the former Henry and Marty Restaurant and Catering, another, very different restaurant is also getting ready to open. 

William and Christopher Saxton are preparing to launch Embark on Maine, a new venture for the duo behind Harpswell’s Dolphin Marina and Restaurant.

Embark, named as such to signify the next step for the Saxtons, likely will open sometime in December, serving up “comfort food,” William “Billy” Saxton told the town council recently— flatbreads, pasta, sandwiches and cocktails among other menu items. They will offer both dine in and takeout. 

It’s a small space and with a nine-month lease it may not be a long term home for Embark, but the Saxtons do hope to remain in Brunswick, even if it’s in a different location. 

Fans of the Dolphin need not fear, Billy Saxton said they will keep the successful Harpswell seafood spot while offering something else to another local community. 

“Opening in a pandemic seems nuts,” he said, but they have been looking for over a year and with the way the last few months have gone, they’d “like to get our roots in town.” 

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