Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


The transcendental plane comes to Boca Raton

Just east of Florida Atlantic University’s Boca Raton campus lie two of South Florida’s most relaxing resources. The first spans the coast and is highlighted by sand and incessant waves. The second establishment, The Nakamal, has the same social quality but isn’t as easy to find, blending in seamlessly with the scenery of small retail strip malls but with an identity all its own.

The Nakamal is a “hang-out” of sorts and defies the typical uptight standards of Boca Raton. It is a meeting ground that caters to the common man while representing a diverse cross-section of ages and subcultures. Depending on the time of night, you may find yourself bumping elbows at the bar with a working professional, a nutritionist, or students just looking to relax.

Taking time away from his Marketing/Management curriculum, Yoni Klein, an FAU Senior and a regular at The Nakamal, says that, “there are no negative traits here, only good people. In the Nakamal, I have found an environment where I come to let go of the stresses of the day and to meet new and old friends.”

The bonds are created kava, which is made from the root of the plant scientifically referred to as Piper methysticum. Kava is a member of the pepper family and indigenous to the islands of the South Pacific. It produces mellowing effects moments after consumption. Kava is also a traditional beverage in the cultures of the South Pacific, being used in welcoming ceremonies as a peace offering, as well as for recreational enjoyment.

But kava is only one factor to the popularity of The Nakamal.

The inviting dí©cor, reggae/eclectic island music and lax mentality of the patrons create an inviting atmosphere. The main service room includes a tiki-style bar composed of bamboo and covered by a palm frond overhang, and the walls serve as a multi-purpose gallery for kava related visuals and tribal art. Digital photographs of smirks and smiles adorn a large portion of the walls, too, as testimony to the thousands of people who have already made their way inside to drink kava.

Yun Watts, a FAU Junior studying Business Management who has been frequenting The Nakamal for the past eleven months, said, “the best thing about the kava bar is the environment. When people drink Kava it makes them calm and more social.”

Scattered among these photographs, creating a strong juxtaposition, are still shots of world leaders engaged in kava rituals. The pictures of Pope John Paul III and Margaret Thatcher evoke laughter and conversation from even the most conservative viewer.

On the top portion of the walls hang a series of authentic tribal masks, imported from the island of Vanuatu. The masks are hand carved and depict themes that are integral to South Pacific culture. The most notable is the repetitive image of the alligator, which serves as an insight to their island environment and to what governs their respect: fear. The masks, in addition to ceremonial drums and narrative boards, stand as a monumental collection, rivaling any museum show of tribal artifacts.

The adjacent room showcases a 500-gallon fish tank that casts its colorful glow on the dimly lit social area. Inside resides an elegant assortment of tropical fish mingling unassumingly in the fluorescent artificial reef. Clad with artificial palms, the room is broken off into sections of benched seating areas. This room serves as a place to play board games or cards while the tables lined with Robb Report, Newsweek, Natural Health and National Geographic indicate a deeper intellectual side to the this establishment.

Laurent Olivier, a native of the French-speaking South Pacific island of Vanuatu, brought the concept for The Nakamal to this country. He saw the emergence of this trendy industry grab hold of the local island economy in the early 1990’s and spawn a number of like businesses.

Several years later, while working for a company building custom fish tanks, Olivier proposed The Nakamal idea to Jeffrey Bowman, a graduate of Florida Atlantic University’s Ocean Engineering program. Bowman, seeing the potential of such an innovative concept, started researching how to pioneer this field in North America.

He enrolled in Florida Atlantic University’s Masters Program for Business Administration with The Nakamal concept as the central purpose for his new scholastic endeavor. After dedicating a year and a half to obtaining his degree and precise planning, Bowman designed the establishment to look to the college community as a significant source of revenue.

“We assumed that college students would be a big part of our business. They fall into the 18-30 year old bracket, which is our target market. We chose our location because it was right down the street from FAU and far from any bars that serve alcohol,” Bowman said. “It is my opinion that drinking kava would fit the college mentality much better than alcohol. Alcohol is kind of a plague on society because it leads to violence and kava is known for calming people down.”

Aided by Diane Lysogorski, another graduate of Florida Atlantic University’s Ocean Engineering program, Olivier and Bowman opened the doors of The Nakamal on January 16, 2002. One year later, The Nakamal has not only extended its product line to include exotic teas and other novelty items, but also given back to the community that has supported it by sponsoring several events on the Boca Raton campuses of Florida Atlantic University and Palm Beach Community College.

In the fall semester of 2002, Florida Atlantic University’s Anthropology Graduate Student Union asked The Nakamal to bring kava to campus for a multicultural event. The Nakamal donated several gallons of the beverage and a few hours of time, and helped inform the college community about kava culture and customs.

After he saw this event, ICC Director of Florida Atlantic University’s Student Government Jon Burford extended an invitation for The Nakamal to partake in FAU’s Homecoming festivities. The Nakamal made an appearance, adding to the carnivalesque atmosphere of the November 3, 2002 Homecoming event at the Barbecue Pits. Among the inflatable game tents and hula-hoop contests, The Nakamal distributed a virtually endless supply of kava and t-shirts, enhancing the already carefree atmosphere of school spirit.

“They are another great example of successful FAU graduates providing culture and atmosphere to the students of FAU. Their booth at Homecoming was packed,” said Jon Burford.

Although The Nakamal was started in the harshest economic period in recent times, it is rare to see a small business that can hold its ground while maintaining integrity. The Nakamal competes with local giants like Jamba Juice and Starbucks Coffee, but if Bowman and crew can weather the storm in the short term, look for The Nakamal to be one of the great success stories with roots deep in the Florida Atlantic community.

The Nakamal is located at 140 NW 20th Street, Boca Raton, FL 33431For information on The Nakamal, call 561-395-9888 or access them online at www.drinkkava.com.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

Do you have something to say? Submit your comments below
All UNIVERSITY PRESS Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *