PictureVitality Bowls franchisee Henry Kim in the days leading up to the Aug. 8 opening of his shop at 765 East Blithedale Ave. in the Alto Plaza shopping center.

The newest food-serving shop in Mill Valley spawned from an extremely personal journey.

After discovering their daughter’s severe food allergies – and their fevered quest to find healthy, safe food alternatives for her, Roy and Tara Gilead decided to create what they were seeking. The San Ramon residents launched Vitality Bowls, a “superfood cafe” that serves acai bowls, smoothies, salads, juices, paninis and more, in 2011.

In 2014, they franchised the business, and its growth has exploded, a rise that has been meteoric to say the least, with more than 70 locations open across 20 states – including nearly 40 in California – and another two dozen in development.

“Our core mission is food safety and food allergies,” says Henry Kim, Vitality Bowls’ franchisee for Marin County, who opens his 600-square-foot shop at 765 East Blithedale Avenue within the Alto Plaza center on Thursday, Aug. 8. He also plans to open shops in Marin City’s Gateway shopping center, as well as Novato, San Rafael and one other location. 

As Kim tells it, all of Vitality Bowls’ food prep like fruit and vegetable, is done separately, with gloves on, on separate cutting boards, new gloves for each new item, with each fruit and vegetable kept separate from the others. 

“We do everything we can to minimize any cross contamination,” he says, pointing to the nut station that is completely separate from everything else. “The nut station is code red!”

Kim has had a broad-ranging professional career, but health has largely been at its center. He’s launched a half dozen healthcare ventures over the years, including a cosmetic dermatology practice, startup clinics and a hearing aid business.

“I’ve always just really enjoyed launching businesses from scratch and immersing myself in the details,” he says. 

Kim learned about Vitality Bowls’ franchise program through a franchise broker friend, and decided to take the plunge. But he’s done so with vigor, buying a cottage in Mill Valley’s Blithedale Canyon and spending months getting to know the people and places of Marin.

Kim says he’s been extremely familiar with Mill Valley for years, as his college roommate freshman year at UC-Davis was from Marin. “I used to go out to dinner with them all the time at places like The Cantina,” he says.

“I really want to be part of this community in a genuine way,” he adds.

The 411: Henry Kim opens the Mill Valley location of Vitality Bowls, a “superfood cafe” that serves acai bowls, smoothies, salads, juices, paninis and more, at 765 East Blithedale Avenue within the Alto Plaza center on Thursday, Aug. 8. MORE INFO.


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