In one sense, you might say that it all began with Jim Stewart and his wife Janet.
“We were here opening night,” said Jim Stewart as he finished up a frosty cup of peanut butter frozen yogurt. “We were the second customers to come in.”
They may not have been the first, but they certainly haven’t been the last to get a sample of the tasty wares at Orange Leaf. The Oklahoma City-based chain opened up its first St. Charles County location along Highway K late last month. If the Stewarts are any indication, the reviews are positive.
“We’re glad they’re here because we’ve been to a lot of frozen yogurt places in other states,” said Janet Stewart, who noted they'd tasted Orange Leaf before. “My son lives in Kansas City, and they have them there, too. But we haven’t had any here, so as soon as we found out there was one in O’Fallon, I thought, ‘Whoopie!’”
Brittany Wills, along with her husband Allen, is among of five co-owners of the newly opened establishment. She said the only other Orange Leaf in the metropolitan region is in Ellisville under a different owner, though more are eventually planned in the area. She said that the ownership group for the O’Fallon location includes two residents of the municipality.
The national chain has more than 100 locations in 22 states from Hawaii to New York.
“Our product is really fantastic,” Wills said. “It is a healthier alternative to custard and ice cream. It’s not as high in calories, and it just tastes wonderful. It’s also fun to go through the line and put all your toppings on yourself.”
The Highway K store will offer 16 flavors at any given time, swapping them out regularly in eight dual-dispensing machines, each of which has a third handle for those who want to swirl two options together.
“People love the swirl,” said Wills. “They really do. So we try to pair flavors together that people really enjoy, that complement each other.”
Last week’s combinations included such couplings as vanilla and coffee lovers, strawberry and cheesecake, and brownie batter and snickerdoodle. A new pairing set for introduction next week will be blueberry and watermelon.
“Pineapple and orange was a big surprise,” Wills said. “I didn’t really think about it when we put them next to each other, but it’s really good and really refreshing.”
Pineapple is also a lactose-free option. Sugar-free options will also be offered soon, Wills said. Overall, any selection is fairly easy on the waistline.
“Ours are made with skim milk, so you don’t have the fat that comes with other milks,” she said. “They are all low fat and a good chunk of them are nonfat. That’s all listed above the flavor on the machine, which you can see before you dispense the yogurt.”
Patrons can also sample any flavor before purchase. Once a selection is made, diners move to the toppings bar where 36 different additions are available from Nerds to coconut to raspberries. Purchases are weighed at the end with customers paying 44 cents an ounce.
“Every day it’s growing, so that’s good,” she said. “Word of mouth is a huge thing so that’s good. It’s definitely spreading.”
Wills said the 2,500-square-foot facility, housed in a local strip mall, is equipped with WI-FI and a special party room in back. Outdoor seating will eventually be an option as well. She said families will likely form the backbone of the business but thinks the product and concept could have wider appeal as well and attract everyone from college students to date night couples.
“O’Fallon is growing, and it has great people in it,” she said. “We really liked the area, and we felt like people in that area didn’t have a yogurt option, so we felt like that was a really good place to start.”
Garrett Wishall, 29, was enjoying his visit on a Wednesday afternoon with his family and a friend from church. He said it compared favorably to other frozen yogurt establishments he’s tried.
“It’s great,” said Wishall, finishing off a chocolate-topped creation. “They are very friendly, even met us at the door.”