The Cole Apartments downtown, which saw its first residential tenants move in a month ago, has landed two major commercial tenants that are likely to anchor its ground-level retail space — German American Bancorp and the Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt chain.
An Indianapolis-based franchise group, Yummy Yogurt Indy LLC, plans to occupy nearly 2,000 square feet in The Cole, putting an Orange Leaf yogurt shop there by early May.
Yummy Yogurt Indy has franchise territorial rights to open Orange Leaf stores in Indiana, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Illinois. The company is currently searching for sites in Nashville, Tenn.
It expects to have nine yogurt shops open in Indiana by midsummer, including the Columbus location.
Stores already open in the state include outlets in Franklin, Greenwood, Indianapolis, Shelbyville and West Lafayette, according to the company’s website.
“Frozen yogurt as a concept is still expanding dramatically, and we feel we have a good, solid investment (with) our company,” spokesman Bil Potter said Friday from Florida, where he was opening another Orange Leaf outlet.
Meanwhile, $2 billion-in-assets Indiana-based German American Bancorp has signed a letter of intent to open in The Cole a 7,200-square-foot branch, said Clay Ewing, head of commercial and retail banking with the Jasper-based institution.
“We haven’t signed the lease yet, but we are very close to doing that,” Ewing said Friday. “We will occupy about 80 percent of The Cole’s retail space.”
Ewing said German American has long had an interest in expanding in the Columbus market.
“We like the business climate and the progressiveness of the community. It’s going to be a good market for us,” he said.
German American has been in the Columbus market in a low-key way for about a year with a loan-production office that morphed into a full-service branch at 445 Fifth St.
But The Cole offers a high-profile, full-service branch location in a luxury building with 146 apartment units.
“We’re not interested in the entire state of Indiana. We are a southern Indiana bank. We are in Bloomington, and we’re interested in the Interstate 65 corridor heading south,” Ewing said.
German American’s expansion in Columbus comes amid other banking expansion. MainSource Bank is adding to its branch network in the city, and Old National Bank acquired Indiana Bank & Trust to gain a larger foothold in Columbus.
The head count of banks and major credit unions in Columbus now registers at more than a dozen companies.
Brett Vanderkolk, chief financial officer with Centra Credit Union, said the banking expansion is a positive sign for Columbus.
“Any time you have these types of businesses choosing to locate or increase their presence in Columbus, it’s a positive sign for the local economy and the community overall,” Vanderkolk said.
On Friday, Ewing was reluctant to forecast an opening date for the new German American branch, saying that would become clearer after the bank signs its formal lease.
Officials with the Buckingham Cos., the Indianapolis development firm that built The Cole, didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.
The yogurt chain operators already have filed paperwork with the City of Columbus Planning Department to move ahead with its store in The Cole.
Building out the space should take about 10 more weeks, Potter said.
Potter is chief operating officer and general counsel of CCreations LLC, the parent company of Yummy Yogurt Indy LLC.
Owners of both companies include Greenwood entrepreneurs Chintu and Jigna Patel, who also have stakes in Subway sandwich shops, Dunkin’ Donuts stores, Fazoli’s Italian restaurants and Comfort Suites hotels and service stations in several states.
Potter said Orange Leaf stores are also in two other luxury apartment projects that Buckingham built in Indianapolis — Cityway and The Avenue.
Potter said it is a good time to expand consumer businesses.
“The economy, at least in the sectors where we operate, is coming back and is more robust than some others,” he said.
Potter said the company gears itself toward fast-casual dining, convenience, healthy desserts such as yogurt and strong customer service.
“We want the best products, the best people and the best service. Those are the three legs we’ve built our company on,” he said.
Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt’s parent company, Orange Leaf Holdings, is based in Oklahoma City, Okla.
The chain is a self-serve, choose-your-own toppings yogurt shop with more than 70 possible flavors. Sixteen flavors are available at any one time on a rotating basis.
“Our product is made from a dehydrated yogurt base, prepared fresh daily with fat-free milk and mixed in one-of-a-kind serving machines that make for a richer, creamier treat,” Potter said.
The frozen snacks typically have a calorie count of 22 to 42 calories per ounce, Potter said.
The chain also prides itself on community service, generally setting aside Tuesdays to partner with various nonprofits or schools on fundraisers that see Orange Leaf give 10 percent of net revenue that day to a community group.
“We grade our store managers on their community involvement,” Potter added.
Potter said his company was attracted to downtown Columbus because the area “is being revitalized and more people are eating and shopping down there at night.”
He said the company looked at several other sites, including spots on National Road near other chain restaurants, but opted for The Cole because a significant number of consumers live within a one- and three-mile radius.
“Fourth Street is restaurant alley; it has outstanding bistros,” he said. “We want to be in that environment.”
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