We had the good fortune of connecting with Kyla Gibson and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Kyla, what’s something about your industry that outsiders are probably unaware of?
Kava bars get it all time: a new customer walks in, sits down and asks what we have on tap. They see the word “bar” and assume it is a place to drink alcohol. We begin to explain that a Kava bar is a non-alcoholic atmosphere. Most people will stay and listen but there are others who have already walked towards the exit at the sound of “non-alcoholic”. Kava bars are a growing community and they are popping up all over the United States. Florida is a hot=spot with over 75 Kava bars throughout the state. There’s a reason more and more people are switching to an alcohol alternative as we strive as a society to lead healthier and happier lives. Those who have never experienced a Kava bar may speak negatively of them because it is something different and we fear change. When you think of the reason most people drink alcohol the answers are probably to be social, to ease social anxiety and to unwind. Alcohol has been an accepted pass time for many cultures over many centuries. It’s so intertwined in our daily lives and we see it in the movies/shows we watch, the music we listen to and the celebrities we follow, but at what cost? Alcohol is a culprit for tearing families apart, losing loved ones to car accidents, sex without (sober) consent, unplanned pregnancies, poor decision making and not to mention the toll it takes on our bodies.

Kava is an all natural alternative made from the root of the kava plant. It has many benefits and acts a lot like alcohol on your brain helping you feel relaxed and happy. Kava is used to relieve pain, relax muscles, alleviate anxiety and improve sleep quality. Unlike alcohol, kava will not impair judgement or leave you feeling like your dead the next morning.

Traditional Kava, made the same way as it has been for over 1000 years in places like Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, has an earthy taste with peppery undertones. For those who are not a fan of the “muddy taste”, many kava bars have created drinks that taste delicious with all the benefits of kava.

The beautiful thing about the kava community, and why we decided to become a part of it, is the diverse group of people that become family. Kava bars have a way of bringing people of different ages, opinions and cultures together. If you frequent a kava bar, your conversations will be deep and you will make friends with all kinds of people and you will feel supported and connected to something much bigger. The term for drinking alcohol is to “get drunk”, when drinking kava you “get rooted”. I’m not telling you to give up alcohol all together, but asking that you go to your local Kava bar with an open mind and truly experience the effects. Kava bars are putting their roots in the American society and uniting us with hope for a better future.

What should our readers know about your business?
Every Kava bar has its own unique vibe. We love traveling and visiting other bars and experiencing the little things that set them a part. From these bars we found a lot of inspiration for our own. At the Rooted Reef we start by brewing our teas in a unique way that makes them taste clean but feel strong. We take pride in our organic, clean label products. Though it cost more, we made it a point to make sure we stayed kind to the environment. All of our cups and lids are compostable and we are focused on finding way to be more aware of the plastics that go into the oceans. We are excited to team up with local charities to do beach cleanups and raise money to support healthier oceans and our Indian River Lagoon.

As young entrepreneurs we definitely faced a lot of challenges and learned so much about opening and running a business. It is not easy, but it is so worth it! Opening a business will keep you up all night and you are constantly thinking about what you can do better. There are always set-backs. We decided to open a Kava bar in 2020 during the pandemic. If getting permits are difficult, they are even more so when everything is shut down. We spent 6 months going back and forth with the local building department to get a permit approved, while watching our bank accounts drain. I remember being so frustrated because the building department would never answer a phone call and we would get an email from them once every few weeks. It seemed, at the time, like the city didn’t want us to open. Everyday my business partners and I would get the question “are you open yet?” from 5-10 people and our response was always “two more weeks!” Fast forward to November 2021, exhausted and financially stressed, we opened our doors and shared a kava shell with our first customers.

Today, we are still learning and growing. A lot goes into running a business and I am truly blessed to have my business partners to share the load.

My biggest personal challenge is finding time for myself, my boyfriend, my dogs and my family. I’m always so focused on the business that even when I’m relaxing my mind is thinking about what I have to do. I still haven’t found the work/personal life balance and I am grateful for the understanding and support as I figure it out.

I want the world to now that it can be done. It’s a risk jumping into the unknown, but we jumped in blind with barely any capital and we stayed focused on our dream. If you have a passion for something, do it. It takes a lot of hard work owning your own business but it beats working at a job you dread waking up for everyday. Everything is just better when you’re working towards your dream. I don’t mind staying late or waking up early because that feeling of accomplishment for my hard work is irreplaceable.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would obviously take her to my Kava bar to drink some kava and chill. She would meet all of our amazing regulars and enjoy their stories. Then we would head towards the water and go on Motorized Kayak Adventures of the Treasure Coast. It is a guided kayak tour with, you guessed it, motors! The owner takes you through mangrove jungles and beautiful turquoise waters and teaches you about all the wildlife. It is truly mind blowing and so relaxing. It’s the kayak tour you didn’t know you needed! We would then head over to Little Jim’s Bait & Tackle, a quaint restaurant on the river with live music and delicious food.
In the evening we would take fishing poles and hang out under the causeway to (hopefully) catch some fish as we watch the famous Florida sunset radiate its beautiful hues of pinks and oranges.

The next morning we would grab breakfast at Sunrise City Café in downtown Fort Pierce before heading to the beach at Fort Pierce Inlet State Park to relax with some Leilos (Fruity and delicious Kava in a can) and watch the surfers. Afterwards I would take her to Lunch at Sharky’s, a small local surf-themed restaurant.

Later we would go to Hard Axe Lounge in downtown Fort Pierce and test our luck at throwing axes.

On the weekend we would definitely check out the large Market that happens every weekend in downtown Fort Pierce by the water. There is live music and many small businesses with tents selling food, art of all mediums and fresh locally grown produce. I would take her to the St. Lucie Aquarium that has an awesome marine exhibit and educates on the marine ecosystem. They even have a touch tank!

There are so many amazing businesses in Fort Pierce:
The Salt Beauty Bar- spend a day getting pampered by this woman owned business.

Sailfish Brewery- Amazing beers, food, and always some sort of event going on
2nd Street Bistro, Wasabi (sushi yum!), Cobb’s Landing, 12A Buoy, Archie’s Seabreeze, Thai Pepper, Crabby’s Dockside, Manatee Island, Pickled, KrazyFish (ok I just love sushi), Mervis’ Cafe (Cuban), Pho Deli
Other things to do in Fort Pierce:
Check out the Navy Seal Museum
Blind Creek Beach (nude beach)
Al’s Family Farm (Best Orange Juice EVER)
Sunrise Theatre (always have a good show happening)
Heathcote Botanical Gardens
Islamorada Brewery
Go hiking in the Savannahs or in White City Park
Kayak down Ten Mile Creek (so peaceful)
The Official Highwaymen Art Gallery
I could go on and on about how amazing Fort Pierce is.
Whether you like nature, fishing, surfing, golfing, eating/drinking, art, you will not be disappointed. Fort Pierce waters are absolutely stunning and I feel so lucky to live and work in paradise.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
First, I definitely want to thank my business partners Ashley Frahm and Roy Hernandez. We shared a common dream and made it happen! Here’s to all the long hours of research, planning, construction and hard work we put in to make it a reality. We didn’t know each other well starting off, but you guys have become family. I also want to thank the Kava Community as a whole. Wow. The community is so supportive and has welcomed us with open arms.

To my life partner, Jimmy Caulfield, thanks for working just as hard as us to help reach those goals and for the continued support as more of my time goes into running a business, I love you.

To Ashley’s, Roy’s and my parents: Thank you for the time and support, you guys are awesome.

To the many people who hooked us up for cheap and helped us get open, thank you for making our lived easier.

Website: rootedreefkavabar.com

Instagram: @rootedreefkavabar

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/therootedreefkavabar/

Other: Check out our photos on google. Search Rooted Reef Kava Bar

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