Step one, pronounce it. Step two, try it. Step three, come back for more.
The owner of the new Modesto food truck The Refuel Center hopes to introduce the region to the acai bowl (pronounced “ah-sigh-ee”). The dish, first popularized in Brazil, is made from the antioxidant-rich acai berry which grows only in South and Central America. The bowls feature a blended frozen mixture of acai berries, topped with fresh fruit, granola and other goodies.
The Refuel Center is the brainchild of self-declared soccer mom Gifty Aidoo, who started it as a healthy way to fuel her kids between soccer practice and tournaments. A longtime nurse at Memorial Medical Center, Aidoo said all three children play in leagues throughout the region. She designed the truck and its menu with her children, ages 20, 17 and 12. What resulted is a menu featuring acai bowls, smoothies, teriyaki chicken bowls, panninis and other fruit drinks.
“This is what I feed my kids,” said the Ghana native who has lived in Modesto for the past 22 years. “That’s where the name refuel came from.”
Aidoo had originally planned to partner with the Modesto Youth Soccer Association and AJAX at the Mary Grogan soccer complex. But after that deal fell through, she decided to take her custom-built 16-foot truck to the streets instead. Since it opened in March, The Refuel Center has gone to weekend sports tournaments around the region as well as In-Shape fitness centers in Modesto. During the week, when there isn’t an event, the truck has recently taken up residence in the empty parking lot of the old Longs Drugs on the corner of McHenry Avenue and Judith Lane in Modesto.
“My target is competitive sports and athletes. They want to eat something healthy between events and workouts,” Aidoo said. “When you go to tournaments you see like five food trucks and they’re all hot dogs and stuff like that. I wanted to bring acai to the area.”
Dubbed a “superfood,” the blended acai tastes like a cross between a fruit smoothie and frozen yogurt, and can be modified with a variety of toppings. Bestsellers include both the berry and tropical acai bowls, smoothies and teriyaki bowls. Prices range from $8 for acai bowls to $7 for teriyaki chicken bowls, $5 for panninis and $4 for smoothies. People can follow The Refuel Truck on Facebook (www.facebook.com/therefuelcenter), Instagram (www.instagram.com/therefuelcenter) or Twitter (twitter.com/berefueled).
Aidoo has about 10 part-time employees, mostly teenage friends of her children from school and sports. Her 17-year-old daughter, Abena, has been working at the truck this summer as well before entering her senior year at Enochs High.
“People come in, they’re a little confused. They don’t know how to pronounce it; it’s like foreign to them,” Abena Aidoo said. “But as soon as they try it – and it’s very aesthetically pleasing – they like it.”
Elsewhere around the Business Beat:
Looking to clean out your closets and make a little cash? Possibly even find a job? Check out the new Miranda’s Buy & Sell in Modesto.
The thrift store has existing locations in Merced and Atwater, and is readying a Modesto site on Orangeburg Avenue, in the Walmart Neighborhood Market shopping plaza.
Owner Esteban Miranda, a 26-year-old California State University, Fresno, graduate, plans to open the Modesto store to buyers Aug. 12. For now he is buying to stock the store and buying from people who bring in gently used clothing, books, furniture, home decor, tools, sports equipment, electronics and more. Buying hours are from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday to Saturday, or by appointment.
And finally, longtime Modesto firm Martino Graphic Design has joined the Marcia Herrmann Design Group.
Martino Graphic Design was started in 1985 and run by Marian Martino and her brother Paul Martino. The Modesto-based Marcia Herrmann Design Group offers branding, design, marketing, advertising, public relations and web services.