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Luke Nicolette, the owner of Purple Banana, said he decided to open his restaurant in pursuit of his dreams.
“My happiness is being able to help others and make them happy,” Nicolette said. “So I knew as an individual I could do that to people around me. But as a business owner I could have a bigger reach, so I knew I wanted to own a business.
Purple Banana is characterized as an acai bar because acai is their primary product, Nicolette said. He’s added other items to his menu like fresh juices and smoothie bowls — which can be topped with a variety of toppings — to diversify his menu with wholesome healthy items.
Nicolette’s inspiration for the restaurant came from her many trips to the United States, he said. Growing up in Syracuse, Nicolette had never seen companies that had successfully sold acai. A restaurant like Purple Banana would be new, unique and successful in its location, Nicolette said. Located at 754 S. Crouse Ave., the restaurant is just off the campus of Syracuse University and is therefore easily accessible to students on a daily basis.
“I did my homework in all these places that do really well in other big cities, and Syracuse had nothing like it,” Nicolette said. “Obviously it’s just an entertainment space on the college campus, and so there’s a lot going on.”
Jenna Poma, a freshman at SU, said Purple Banana brought something the SU region lacked.
“It’s a great addition to campus, just because we don’t really have a lot of places to get healthier options,” Poma said.
Jordan Campanelli, a sophomore at SU, said she wishes she could use her dining dollars to buy restaurant produce.
“It’s really convenient, just off Marshall Street,” Campanelli said. “So being able to use your restaurant dollars here would be a really good idea, and I think it would bring in a lot more business.”
While the restaurant has been open for less than a month, Nicolette has already noticed a recurring clientele and a strong demand for her products.
“We’re getting a lot of positive feedback indicating customers are engaged,” Nicolette said. “We don’t just define success by how much money we make or anything like that. It seems customers like it and we are improving every day, knowing that we are just getting started. »
Although he has worked in restaurants before, Nicolette has never been part of the entrepreneurial side of the restaurant business. His biggest challenge, he said, was overcoming all the “bureaucracy” that comes with opening a business in Syracuse. Since opening the restaurant, Nicolette has faced unforeseen challenges, but he said he strives to overcome them as they arise.
As for the choice of products sold at the restaurant, Nicolette relied on the help of a dietitian and nutritionist friend. He also kept in mind his vision, which emerged from the study of similar companies, to create a restaurant that would serve health-oriented products.
Nicolette hired Dan Jackson, a manager with previous experience in the food business, to help her with areas he wasn’t so sure about handling. Jackson looks after the restaurant on a day-to-day basis, he said.
“I was driven to do the more food side of things,” Jackson said. “I did all the menu, I do all the daily operations here. So I do all the orders, I talk to all our suppliers, I coordinate the schedule. I take care of all the daily stuff. »
Since the acai berry usually doesn’t have a very long shelf life and can’t be grown in Syracuse due to the weather, Nicolette said he decided to freeze the fruit pulp and ship to the restaurant. The restaurant buys directly from a manufacturer, who has direct relationships with Brazilian farmers who harvest and then freeze the berries. Once the restaurant has its main ingredient, Nicolette said he was able to create whatever product he wanted.
Jackson said he created the Purple Banana menu after several taste tests with friends and family.
“I just took what I thought was good and mixed in with a lot of popular stuff,” Jackson said. “I spoke to a lot of people and then I kind of took into account all the feedback I got, used some of my past knowledge from previous jobs and kind of followed what I thought I was good.”
Nicolette said he has big plans for Purple Banana in the future, but his current focus for the company is controlled growth. His idea is to get it right, he says. When Nicolette is sure that Purple Banana has become a fixture within the Syracuse community and among students, he will consider the opportunities that come his way moving forward.
“We now have a walk-in business. I will soon have a loyalty program, I will have online ordering, I will soon have catering and events that we can support,” Nicolette said. “I want to grow, and I want to do it the right way and make sure we do it right.”
Published on February 16, 2022 at 10:13 p.m.
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