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New smoothie bowl business to replace MSC Jamba Juice

Following the closure of Jamba Juice in the Marshall Student Center, Alabamian smoothie bowl startup Blenz is hoping to bring a new variety of nutritional dining options to the MSC. ORACLE PHOTO/ALEXANDRA URBAN

The Marshall Student Center (MSC) Jamba Juice closed this summer, but it will soon be replaced by another smoothie shop Blenz Bowls in the fall semester.

Blenz is a smoothie and acai bowl franchise founded by University of Alabama alumni Zac Rogers and Riley Voce. It is set to open Aug. 22.

Menu items include smoothies and smoothie bowls that feature flavors such as banana, mango, peanut butter and pineapple. Students will also have the opportunity to add toppings like Nutella, honey and coconut flakes to their chosen item.

USF’s first taste of Blenz was at the St. Pete campus. The smoothie bowl cafe was placed in St. Pete’s University Student Center in 2021, receiving strong positive feedback following its introduction.

David DiSalvo, resident district manager for Aramark, said that in choosing a franchise to replace Jamba Juice, they wanted to acknowledge evolving trend cycles in the food industry and hoped to diversify students’ healthy eating options.

Blenz’s popularity among St. Pete students and its novelty made it a strong candidate, DiSalvo said.

In the spring semester, USF Dining, Rogers and Voce collaborated to host a surveying sampling pop-up of Blenz’s products at Argos Exchange to analyze students’ reception of the brand.

This event was successful, greatly influencing the decision to add a Blenz location to the Tampa campus, according to Aramark and USF Dining Marketing Director Jessica Cicalese.

“[Students] got to sample a lot of their popular menu options, tell their story, [share] their brand and it was really well received by the USF Tampa community,” Cicalese said. “That was part of our decision to bring them over to this space.”

The old Jamba Juice location in the MSC will have a new look that mimics other Blenz locations. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

Blenz was created with college students in mind, Voce said, with the two founders developing the business while he was still a student and Rogers as a recent graduate.

Rogers and Voce were first introduced to smoothie bowls on a trip to Miami in 2018. Not only did they enjoy them, but Voce said he and Rogers also saw it as an invaluable business opportunity.

The pair returned to Alabama with the plan to create Blenz, using the remainder of their student loans to make the business a reality.

Voce described Blenz as a typical grassroots startup, serving their first bowls out of a trailer on the University of Alabama campus in September 2018.

Still a student at the time, Voce shared that starting the business was difficult, but providing a dining alternative that encouraged a happy, healthy lifestyle was worth it.

“Our motto is ‘Be a good human,’” he said. “That’s honestly the main thing. We sell smoothie bowls and acai bowls and all of these healthy products, but we believe in not only having a healthy diet, but also a healthy mentality.”

Blenz currently has seven locations in universities across Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. USF currently hosts the only two Blenz in Florida.

Regarding their agreement with USF, Voce said he and Rogers were coming to the university as independent contractors. While filling a space on the campus, the co-founders will be responsible for operation, with both parties earning a portion of the revenues.

Preparation for the new cafe involved finishing up renderings and finalizing details for what the store will look like. The co-founders are also actively hiring, hoping to have secured a full staff of 25 students before it opens.

In anticipation of opening day, Voce said that he was looking forward to seeing what this expansion could bring to the company, USF and others involved in its success.

“[Rogers and I are] beyond excited to be on USF campus. We’ve been planning to get on this campus for a little over a year now, so we are ecstatic,” he said.

“We can’t wait to serve the students on campus. The student base there just seems awesome, and we’re going to bring the best we can to them.”