Lex Bowls bids farewell, for now

The beloved local açaí business closed its doors on April 26 due to a lease issue


Christian Basnight

Lex Bowls served its last customer on April 26, closing two days before the business expected due to increased demand. Photo by Christian Basnight, ’24

Christian Basnight, Staff Writer

Greg and Amie Phillips felt there was a market for açaí in Lexington—the city where their son attended school at Virginia Military Institute. So the pair uprooted from New York and opened their own açaí smoothie shop, Lex Bowls, on Main Street in October.
“We didn’t have experience with acai or smoothies before; we just figured that it wasn’t too popular around here and that everyone would like it,” Greg Phillips said.
They were right. Since opening its doors last fall, Lex Bowls has sold over 600 açaí bowls and smoothies.
“We were just shocked at how fast it caught on and how busy we were,” Greg Phillips said. “We exceeded everyone’s expectations.”
That’s why it came as such a surprise to local customers, including many Washington and Lee students, when the business announced on Instagram last month that it would be closing its doors due to “circumstances beyond our control.”
“I was just shocked and very confused because it’s crazy to me that a business could come in and do so well, so quickly, and then so quickly be gone,” said Tahri Phillips, ’23.
Greg Phillips said he has heard various rumors around town about Lex Bowls’ sudden closure. He said the true explanation lies in a lease complication with another local business.

An acai bowl, topped with banana slices, red fruit and granola. The bowl sits on a table.
Lex Bowls owners created a market for their smoothies and açaí this fall. Photo by Bri Hatch, ‘23 (Bri Hatch)

“It just comes down to an issue with the lease. We don’t blame any businesses for that issue. It’s just a bummer,” he said. “Our lease was being contested, and there’s a valid question of whether or not we should have been allowed in there in the first place because of other people’s contracts.”
The Lex Bowls owners said they won’t challenge the lease dispute.
“We don’t want to fight things,” Greg Phillips said.
“This was supposed to be fun for us. We just don’t want to get into a battle with a whole bunch of attorneys reading into a lease agreement,” he said.

Greg Phillips also said he understands the opposing side of the lease dispute.
“I guess if I had my shop, and then someone came in and there was a question about whether or not that person should have been there, I’d be upset too,” he said.
Lex Bowls’ departure is felt by many adoring college-goers in the area. The shop offered a weekly 10% discount for students, and featured framed pictures of local college athletes on its walls.
“They framed pictures of us inside the store and it really felt like they cared about us,” said Phillips, a women’s basketball player at Washington and Lee.
“After one of our really tough games this past season, they offered our entire team free Lex Bowls the next day,” Phillips said. “Lexington hasn’t seen a business in town that’s just so ingrained in sports culture.”
Lex Bowls also began signing name-image-likeness (NIL) deals with student-athletes at Washington and Lee, Virginia Military Institute and Southern Virginia University in January 2023 to promote sales and brand awareness.
“When we opened the business, we started to get to know so many athletes, and it made it more interesting for us,” Greg Phillips said. “They supported us and we enjoyed supporting them as well.”
Brad Singer, ’24, worked at Lex Bowls at the end of his wrestling season this year. He said the store always attracted new customers because of the atmosphere.

A young man with a buzzcut smiles at his acai bowl, while sitting at a table in front of a wall of photos and a decorated whiteboard.
Lex Bowls partnered with local student-athletes, including Southern Virginia University cross country athlete Dylan May, to promote their store. Photo courtesy of @lexbowls Instagram page

“When I was working there they would always get new people that would be back within a week or so,” Singer said. “That was just because they were genuine, kind people who were working hard, and they gave an excellent product at a fair price.”
In its final week, Lex Bowls ran out of products two days earlier than anticipated due to high customer demand, pushing the final sale day to April 26 instead of April 28.
Greg Phillips said he appreciates the support he and his wife received in the past year — and especially in the business’ final days.
“Everyone, all the students and the people in the town, have been great. We had a tremendous amount of support,” he said. “We didn’t have a bad customer in seven months.”
Greg Phillips said he’s optimistic Lex Bowls will return to the community sometime in the future.
“I think somewhere along the line, Lex Bowls will be back somewhere in town,” he said.“There’s a lot of people who are interested in purchasing it, but right now there’s limited space in Lexington.”
Regardless of whether Lex Bowls returns to Lexington, Greg Phillips said he and his wife accomplished their main goal: bonding with the local community through bites of açaí.
“We tried to create an atmosphere for everyone that was friendly and welcoming, and I think we were pretty successful doing that,” Phillips said. “We just wanted everyone to feel comfortable.”