FAIRFIELD – One of the welcome additions to the Fairfield square in 2021 was the opening of Big Acai Bowls on Oct. 5.
The business opened in the space previously occupied by Davis & Palmer Real Estate. The business’s name is a reference to the acai berry found in the Amazon in South America and one of the fruits the business sells in its sorbet bowls and smoothies.
All sorbet bowls are topped with granola, banana, and a variety of toppings of the customers’ choice. Some topping options include a variety of fresh fruits, almonds, hemp seeds, coconut, goji berries, peanut butter, cacao nibs, chia seeds and others.
Danae Drish, daughter of Diana and Ron Drish and a 2019 graduate of Fairfield High School, is the manager and part-owner of the cafe along with her family.
Drish said that her business is not yet a year old and it’s drawing lots of new people over the summer, as well as regulars who have been coming since the beginning.
“I feel like the public’s response is really good,” Drish said. “We hear ‘we are happy you are here’ a lot or ‘we are so happy Fairfield has something like this!’”
Drish said it’s fun to offer a unique treat to people who haven’t had it before.
“We do have to teach people how to order and explain the bases and their flavors,” she said. “We have some menu items that are brand new to people.”
Drish said the top selling items thus far have been the mango tango smoothie, tropical smoothie, acai smoothie, acai base with mixed berries and mango base with mixed berries.
The Drishes hired artist Amy Putney-Koenig from Des Moines to paint murals on the walls — colorful fruit with smiling faces. Putney-Koenig attended Fairfield’s Kiwanis Kids Day on Sept. 18, 2021, and based her murals on the feeling she got from the town during her visit.
“We have had lots of comments on the murals,” Drish said. “Everyone has loved the space so far.”
On the wall behind the county, a mural instructs visitors how to pronounce the name of the store: “ah-sigh-ee.” In the native Portuguese, the name of the berry is written as “açaí.”
Danae said the acai berry is a “superfood” with great nutritional value. She said the menu is completely vegan except for honey, and that all the bases of the bowls and smoothies are organic certified fruits.
When Drish opened the business, she was doing online classes through Indian Hills Community College. She graduated from the college in November, and is thankful she can devote her attention to the store. Assisting Drish are her brothers Drake and Dalton. Drake goes to college, but helps in the summer. Dalton helps during the school year, since his summers are busy working for their dad Ron at Drish Construction.
“My grandparents still help me out with things at the store,” Danae said. “My parents stop by and help out if they have time.”
Danae said she was first exposed to acai berries while playing beach volleyball in California, where they are commonly sold. She had them again during a trip to Colorado, and most recently in Pella, where a Big Acai franchise opened just last year.
On the bottom of the Big Acai bowls reads the line “For franchise opportunities, call …” followed by the business’s number. Danae said her father, who co-owns Drish Construction, has always wanted to start another business. He had been prodding the rest of the family to start a Big Acai franchise in Fairfield for a year since he likes the company’s product so much, too.
The Drish family decided to follow Ron’s lead and contacted the company to see how to bring Big Acai to their town. Lanette Byers, who awards franchises with her son Jake, said she was thrilled when Danae reached out about opening a store.
“Fairfield has been a target of ours,” Byers told The Union in 2021. “Our strategy is to be in the smaller towns and not just the big cities.”
Big Acai has 12 locations in Iowa in cities such as Pella, Marshalltown, Ankeny, Ames and Spencer.
After purchasing the building from Davis & Palmer Real Estate, the Drishes worked feverishly to remodel the interior to turn it into a cafe. They removed three walls, put in a new floor and built a counter. Ron did all the construction, which saved the family money from not having to hire a general contractor.
“We all spent our evenings here, working late into the night on top of our other jobs,” said Danae.
Just 42 days after purchasing the building, the remodeling was complete. Byers said she was impressed at how quickly the family worked to open the business. She’s also been impressed by Danae’s willingness to take on such a big responsibility at such a young age.
“Her wisdom and tenacity are beyond her years,” Byers said.
Fairfield Economic Development Association assisted in obtaining the franchise, creating the business plan and purchase of the building.
Josh Laraby, Fairfield Economic Development Association’s executive director, told The Union in 2021, “It’s been an honor to serve the family in the startup. They’re working diligently to bring this to fruition. The new location will be a vibrant asset to our downtown that will be a draw to our community. Make sure to stop in and experience an acai bowl.”
Danae Drish, left, speaks with customer Ronda Logli, who just purchased a tray full of bowls from Big Acai Bowls – Fairfield for her youth group at the United Methodist Church in Fairfield. The new business opened its doors on Oct. 5, 2021, on the east side of the Fairfield square. (Andy Hallman/The Union)
Big Acai Bowls opened its Fairfield location in October 2021. (Andy Hallman/The Union)
Call Andy Hallman at 641-575-0135 or email him at [email protected]
Danae Drish, left, and Lanette Byers prepare food for clients at Big Acai Bowls – Fairfield, a new business that opened on the east side of the Fairfield square in 2021. Drish manages the cafe, and Byers is in charge of awarding franchises. Fairfield is the business’s 12th location in Iowa. (Andy Hallman/The Union)
Big Acai Bowls moved into the space previously occupied by Davis & Palmer Real Estate on the east side of the Fairfield square. (Andy Hallman/The Union)
A mural behind the counter instructs visitors how to pronounce the name of the acai berry: “ah-sigh-ee.” (Andy Hallman/The Union)
A mural along the north wall of Big Acai Bowls – Fairfield shows fruit with smiling faces. The mural was painted by artist Amy Putney-Koenig. (Andy Hallman/The Union)