From My Perspective: Andy Graham, Paradise Bowls

This weekend would have been the 2020 Manhattan Beach Open—the most coveted Gold Series Title of the season. The Manhattan Beach Open is a staple AVP event, and each MBO weekend brings a unique energy to the South Bay. Andy Graham, a South Bay resident and owner of Paradise Bowls (a delicious açaí bowl shop that has become a South Bay staple in its own right), gives his perspective on what a normal Manhattan Beach Open weekend is like, and what he values the most about being a part of the AVP family.

In January 2013, we opened the doors to our first Paradise Bowls location in Manhattan Beach, and, from that day on, we’ve felt like a part of the South Bay. We were embraced by the community and we’ve done our best to maintain the special relationships we’ve established in that time. We’ve since opened locations in Hermosa Beach and Irvine and so that sense of being a part of the South Bay and greater SoCal community is stronger than ever. If you ever walk up and down the beach in Hermosa and Manhattan during the summer, you’ll see a wide variety of activities. There’s people surfing, swimming, paddling, playing over-the-line, running, walking, and just soaking up the sun. There’s also volleyball… oh man is there volleyball. Beach volleyball could be considered the lifeblood of the South Bay, and when the AVP is in town it might as well be the heartbeat.

As a family-owned and operated business, we love the sense of family that exists within the AVP. As David Kim says to us at the beginning of each season, “welcome back to the AVP Ohana.” The AVP has welcomed us into its own family with open arms, and we couldn’t be prouder to be a part of it. Almost every day during the season, various AVP athletes come in for a bowl after training on the beach (they usually have to fight the junior lifeguards for a spot in line). Mark Schuermann, he of that “golden voice”, loves to come in for a California Greens so he can tell himself he ate his veggies that day. Jace Pardon, Molly Turner, Aidan Brown, Cassie House, and other AVP athletes have actually worked in our stores before. They’d literally hit the beach in Hermosa to train for a few hours in the morning and then cruise up the ally at 13th street to clock in for a shift in the afternoon. They always managed to bring a ton of sand in with them, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

It goes without saying that being affiliated with the AVP has had an enormously positive impact for Paradise Bowls. We tend to be busy all summer when junior lifeguards and amateur volleyball tournaments get going, but when the AVP comes to town it’s a whole different ballgame. The excitement starts to build when the crew is out on the beach early in the week constructing the stadium and outer courts, and by the time the qualifier matches start on Thursday, people around Hermosa and Manhattan are pumped. We look forward to setting up our Paradise Bowls tent in the sponsor village while trying to decide how many free bowls we’re going to give away that weekend. Even our own staff starts requesting to “work in the tent” weeks in advance because they want to be around the action at the Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach Open. Part of that action is when Mark starts announcing orders for he and everyone else in the press box over the PA system on the Stadium Court, hoping I’ll hear it. I guess that means we’ve got a good thing going. The energy of an AVP tournament is unmatched and you can see that energy flow from the beach all the way into town — we always have a line out the door during AVP weekend. It’s no coincidence that our busiest time of the year in Hermosa is Hermosa Beach Open weekend, and our busiest time of the year in Manhattan Beach is Manhattan Beach Open weekend.

What we’d really like to say is thank you to the AVP for bringing us on as sponsors. Thank you to the AVP athletes for visiting our stores and supporting us year round. And thank you to the beach volleyball and the South Bay communities for embracing us and making us a part of your families. It’s an honor to be with you in Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach every year, and we look forward to staying with the AVP for years to come.