Boca Center: The Real Stories Behind the Stores

BREAKING NEWS: My MOMbassador partnership with Boca Center is officially continuing in 2021! I’m envisioning another big year for Modern Boca Mom and am honestly so, so grateful for the opportunities coming my way. Even despite a global pandemic, we still managed to accomplish so many fun things with Boca Center retailers and restaurants in the past 365 days.

And, there’s more to come!

From impeccably-styled seasonal photo opps to personalized pumpkins and virtual visits with Santa, Boca Center is still THE one-stop shopping, dining and personal care destination for local families.

Boca Center Retailers & Restaurants | Photo by Sweet Memories Photography

Not to be confused with the Town Center Mall down the street, Boca Center is an open air shopping destination located at 5150 Town Center Circle. Some of my favorite restaurants live there such as Tap 42, Sushi Ray, Rocco’s Tacos, Just Salad and Copperfish Kitchen. And there are amazing boutiques, salons, an art gallery and even more exciting openings coming up this year such as Agalia Jewelers, Waxing the City Boca Raton and Vivo Pizza and Pasta!

Boca Center Retailers & Restaurants | #storestories

When it comes to local businesses like the ones at Boca Center, I personally like to dig deeper to find out what makes them tick. (Spoiler alert: IT’S THE PEOPLE.) For example…

  1. Why did they start their business?
  2. What made them choose Boca Raton? As a local resident, I make it my mission to find out more about the human side of the places I frequently shop and dine at.

Our monthly Instagram series #StoreStories, a la “Humans of New York” is the result of my digging. I hope you’ll read a few of them and get to know these small businesses a little better…

Boca Center Retailers & Restaurants | Photo by Sweet Memories Photography

Boca Center #StoreStories

Grove Opticians

Meet the owners of Grove Opticians: Robert Sarasohn & Daniel Young. If you’re looking for a truly unique look when it comes to your specs, these are your go-to guys!

Boca Center Retailers & Restaurants | Photo by Sweet Memories Photography

“Boca residents appreciate high-end optical and want to set themselves apart from the masses, if you will. They are looking for a style that makes them stand out,” says Sarasohn. Let’s just say I’m not shocked. “We’ve been in Boca Raton for 34 years and have a passion for eyewear, says Young. We travel to Europe every year to handpick our unique designs in Paris, Milan and Germany for our clients and they love the selection.”

Boca Center Retailers & Restaurants | Photo by Sweet Memories Photography

As for a life in sales? “We love what we do! And, selling unique eyewear is certainly a step up from peddling sandwiches and shoveling snow like I did back in college! Once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur, I guess!”

Hoffman’s Chocolates

South Florida parents should be quite familiar with this business: Hoffman’s Chocolates!

Boca Center Retailers & Restaurants | Sweet Memories Photography

Hoffman’s enjoys celebrating the everyday AND tradition of the holidays with the local community…and has been since 1975—50 years in business as of last year!

Did you know that for Valentine’s Day, they make over 50,000 chocolate covered strawberries?

And that Hoffman’s makes their chocolates using a proprietary blend in their factory in Greenacres, FL? I wonder how many chocolate Easter eggs they produce…

When it comes to Hoffman’s Chocolates, all of their “sweet deals” boil down to this: “Everybody loves chocolate and we love being part of the South Florida community. Our business is a great way to connect the two while being safe during this unprecedented time.”

We couldn’t agree more.

En Vogue Boutique

Meet the owner of En Vogue Boutique: Leah Jacobson. If you’re looking for someone to elevate your style who truly has a “passion for fashion,” Jacobson is your gal.

Boca Center Retailers & Restaurants | Sweet Memories Photography

“I’ve always been in sales–from the garment center in NYC to running high end fashion stores in NYC to New Jersey and then this store in Boca Raton. After some time, the original owner decided he couldn’t manage the boutique any longer and offered to let me buy and run it myself. I re-booted the whole store and now purchase all of my pieces about twice a year from Vegas, Milan, and Paris…and of course, from other vendors you normally wouldn’t see in Boca Raton.  I wanted to be the director of everything fashion. And that was 12 years ago!” said Jacobson.

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As you can see, their clothes are perfect for every fashionable Boca mom!

Boutique A la Mode

Meet the owner of Boutique A la Mode: Ahlam Marsch. She may have the only “OG” status at Boca Center!

Boca Center Retailers & Restaurants | Sweet Memories Photography

“It’s true. I am a Boca Center veteran and have had my store in the plaza for 29 years! My customers and I have a passion for fashion that keeps this boutique going.” said Marsch. She’s also lived and worked in Boca Raton for a long time. “I am from Lebanon (via Switzerland), but my children were born here and I love that it’s a very family oriented town. Opening my business in Boca was a great decision for us—our city is upscale, nice, safe and very well kept.

But, it’s been a learning curve, especially in the early days.

When I first started, I didn’t realize how much it would take to run my own business vs. just managing one. Figuring out all the ins and outs of how to buy, where to buy and making sure all the back ends of my business are taken care of takes a lot. You have to love it.”

Boutique A La Mode carries many different styles suiting virtually any type of customer. “We have something to fit any body shape, age and type. I believe in having versatile pieces of clothing and jewelry that you can use to dress up or down any outfit,” said Marsch.

And speaking of customers…many have become like family to Marsch by this point. “When you’ve been in business as long as I have, there’s a certain level of ease. My customers feel so comfortable in my store that they feel like they can talk about ‘anything’ with me…and I mean anything!”

Spilling the tea at Boca Center…a girl can’t help herself sometimes!

Namaste Nail Salon

These days, we could all use a little extra Zen in our lives,  am I right? Luckily, a mom-owned business at Boca Center has just the ticket for finding that additional peace and tranquility…and gorgeous nails at the same time! Meet the owner of Namaste Nail Boca Raton, Staci Markowitz-Dial. And take it from me, Namaste Nail Sanctuary is simply a slice of self care heaven!

Boca Center Retailers & Restaurants by Sweet Memories Photography

“As the owner of four Orangetheory Fitness studios, I’ve been on a journey to help people find their best inner selves. So when the Namaste Nails franchise concept was presented, it completed the picture for me. Empowering women and men to be their best physically, mentally and aesthetically is my calling,” said Staci. “Namaste Nail Sanctuary is not your ‘run of the mill’ nail salon. Our serene, spa-like atmosphere usually stops people at the door. And, we are committed to using the most natural and toxin-free products on the market.”

How it works: Customers receive pedicures and regular or gel manicures in a Zero Gravity chair while enjoying Namaste’s Deepak Chopra guided meditation system with noise canceling headphones.

There are also personal TV’s featuring tranquil landscapes and scenery. I told you—Boca mom heaven! Not to mention, this salon is built out perfectly for our ‘new normal’. Staci said, “In addition to peace and tranquility, our customers should feel very safe at Namaste. We invested in a Salon Safe air extraction system which ensures our Sanctuary (service area) is odor-free. We also have a hospital grade autoclave system to ensure our tools are 100% sterilized.”

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I just want to go back to experience their Zero Gravity chairs…and maybe take a nap. You’ll definitely want to Namaste (get it? Nama-stay??) a while…

Just Salad

Gaining the “Quarantine 15” wasn’t exactly on this Boca mom’s ‘to do list’. But thanks to a global pandemic and finding food (and soooo many drinks) to be a daily comfort, here we are. Imagine my delight (and RELIEF!) when Just Salad opened for takeout and delivery. Meet its founder, Nick Kenner.

Boca Center Retailers & Restaurants by Sweet Memories Photography

Just Salad was founded as an answer to a simple question: what’s with the shortage of healthy fast food? The result was the development of health-minded recipes that could be made in a New York minute. Just Salad’s mission today? Make everyday health and sustainability possible—from the Empire State to the Sunshine State, and everywhere in between.

Just Salad chose to open an outpost right here in Boca for a reason. “Like many New Yorkers, we feel right at home in South Florida. We were excited to finally join the Boca community after hearing from our local fans for so many years. While there are plenty of healthy restaurants in the area, none offer the mix of quality, affordability, and sustainability that Just Salad is so well known for,” said Kenner.

*Sustainability*–a trendy buzzword, but one that is becoming more and more important. “Sustainability is not a trend; it’s a core value of our business. Just Salad is the home of the World’s Largest Restaurant Reusable Program, saving over 100K pounds of plastic each year through its reusable bowl program,” said Kenner. I personally have one and love it!

By the way, don’t let the name “Just Salad” fool you.

“We serve way more than just salad, with the freshest wraps, warm bowls, avocado toast + more.”

Copperfish Kitchen

Growing up in  South Florida, and later marrying a man from Maine, I guess you could say I know great seafood when I see…er…taste it. That’s why this Boca mom was beyond excited when Copperfish Kitchen opened. I mean…they even have a dedicated Maine lobster night! What more could a girl ask for? Meet the family behind the fish, the Anagnostou’s!

Boca Center Retailers & Restaurants | Copperfish Kitchen Founders

An often little-known fact about Copperfish Kitchen: It’s completely family-owned and operated. Manuel Anagnostou (pictured second from the right in the family photo) says, “A lot of guests are surprised that we are hands-on owners but we love it! Our family has been in the restaurant business for four generations—and three generations are currently working at Copperfish! We are passionate about hospitality and serving real food that you can trace back to the source.” When it comes to seafood, I couldn’t agree more…

Boca Center Retailers & Restaurants | Copperfish Kitchen Founders

With a ceiling designed to mimic a water’s surface and wall cages filled with shucked oyster shells, this restaurant is perfect for date night, happy hour or any family celebration (they even have a private room!). Speaking of family, I was thrilled (and amused) to find out Anagnostou’s 85 year-old grandmother makes all of the desserts in house! “What can I say? Our motto is ‘expect the unexpected’. We pride ourselves on doing things out of the ordinary,” said Anagnostou. Time to book our next reservation!

Giano Gelato & Caffe

I scream, you scream, we all scream…FOR GELATO AND COFFEE!!! I mean, if you know you know. A true Boca mom levels up when it comes to dessert and caffeine. And Giano Gelato & Caffe is the perfect place to indulge in both! Meet the original founder of this decadent dining destination – Giovanni Gianelli– as well as his grandson who is responsible for bringing the business to South Florida.

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Boca Center Retailers & Restaurants | Giano Gelato

“Start small. Focus on service and quality.” That’s the valuable advice I received from Adrian Gianelli, grandson of Giovanni. “Giano Gelato & Caffe actually started 85 years ago in Argentina. Grandfather was an Italian who arrived in Argentina at a very young age and after having a few jobs, he decided to start his own gelato shop. My brother and I were pretty much born making gelato! I still eat it daily.”

Gianelli is responsible for the re-birth of the shop right here in Boca.

“In 2015, we decided to take our family business to the United States on our own just like our grandfather had done. So, Giano Gelato & Caffe (America) was born.” But…Argentina to Boca? “Yes! We researched many cities, but I believe Boca Raton chose us. When we first visited, we instantly fell in love with it.”

And I fell in love with their gelato! The shop may feature 18 different flavors, but believe it or not Boca kids tend not to pick a flavor…instead they choose a color. Sounds about right! Either way you win in my opinion!

Peter’s Place Hair + Color

Like most Boca moms, my hair is the one appointment I NEVER miss. (I’m a highlighted blonde, so it’s every 30 days or hello dark roots…) That’s why I was beyond excited when Peter Coppola announced he was opening Peter’s Place Hair & Color in Boca Center. Located right next to Namaste and Starbucks, it’s the ultimate trifecta in treating yourself! Meet the man behind the salon chair: Peter Coppola.

Boca Center Retailers & Restaurants | Peter's Place + Color

What do drums, dye and dryers have in common? Believe it or not, they all apply to famed salon owner Peter Coppola! “I’m a musician. That’s what I did—I played drums in nightclubs before going into the salon business.” Success actually came banging on his door pretty early on when he opened a chain of hair salons on Long Island called “Peter’s Place” more than three decades ago. “I was cold and thought that a move to California would be good for me and the business. A friend said, ‘You don’t know anyone in California. You should go to  Boca Raton where your clients are.’ And that was that. Boca has been good to me.”

So good that Coppola actually opened his first Boca Raton salon in Boca Center 30 years ago!

“When the opportunity came again to return to Boca Center with this new business concept in 2020, I felt like it was a good omen. I wasn’t ready to give up the business. I love what I do. What an experience it could be! And of course, the center has the best location in Boca. So, I thought why not? And here we are!” said Coppola.

And boy, this salon is chic. White marble everything! You feel pampered the minute you walk in. “Everything is custom-made to fit the client. The shampoo units are from Italy, the cabinet work, and the seats where you get your hair washed are some of the most comfortable you’ve ever sat in. This is one of the nicest salons I’ve ever opened. My 30th store in 30 years!”


Sponsored: This Boca Center Retailers & Restaurants #storestories post was sponsored. All opinions expressed in this blog post are my own and not influenced in any way by the sponsor. Any statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with provider. Please refer to this site’s Disclosure for more information and I have been compensated, but that does not impact my views or opinions.

All photos in this post were taken by Naomi Phelps at Sweet Memories Photography.