Yogurt shop aims for May opening

The owner of Columbus’s first Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt hopes to open the doors by May 1.

Andy Russell, a graduate of Columbus North High School, said construction should start as early as this week to transform a 678-square foot, quick-service food space in The Commons into an Orange Leaf franchise.

Orange Leaf is an Oklahoma-based self-serve frozen yogurt company that offers 70 flavors for franchises to rotate through self-serve machines. The outlets also provide a toppings bar for people to customize their sweet treats.

The location in The Commons — across from the Luckey Climber indoor playground — will have seven machines, each with a different flavor, Russell said. After choosing their selections, customers will add toppings and go through a checkout line to pay.

Russell and store manager Brent Devers are investing about $160,000 on a buildout of the space. One key change will be that customers will be able to access the inside of the space, rather than just getting their food from a quick-serve window.

The contractor will knock out a majority of the wall to give open access to the space, which will be blocked off by a grate when the store is closed, said Jamie Brinegar, business services director for the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department.

Work to transform the space should take about three to four weeks, Russell said. He’s given his contractor an end date of April 15, he said.

Once all the work is done, the store will have a soft opening for seven to 10 days before fully opening to the public for business, Russell said.

After the grand opening, Russell intends to offer more than frozen yogurt, such as coffee in the morning, he said.

The frozen yogurt will be made fresh every morning, and any food products left over at the end of the day will be given away, either to a nonprofit group, a city department, the general public, a group doing a fundraising event or some other entity, he said.

The yogurt store fills the opening left by Snappy Tomato Pizza, which was evicted by the city in January 2014 after not paying its rent for a full year. The city and restaurant later settled on a payment amount.

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Founded in 2008, Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt is an Oklahoma City-based, self-serve frozen dessert chain that lets people pick their own sweet treat and toppings.

The national chain has more than 225 stores from coast to coast and about 125 getting ready to open soon.

Orange Leaf offers multiple traditional and original flavors, along with no-sugar-added and lactose-free alternatives.