Hudson's Orange Leaf yogurt shop will open at 6 p.m. today, according to local franchisee Kevin Vance.
Vance, shop manager Chris Williams and other members of the staff held a special VIP opening Tuesday night. They spent time this afternoon putting the finishing touches on the stop and preparing computer systems.
Operations at Orange Leaf will be similar to those at FreeStyle Yogurt, a self-serve frozen yogurt shop opened last fall in downtown Hudson. Regular hours will be 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Customers can serve up their favorite flavor of frozen yogurt and preferred toppings, and pay according to weight.
There are a variety of 36 toppings, including all sorts of fruits, candies, nuts, cookies and cereals, but Vance is most excited about the taste of the yogurt itelf.
"It's made with fresh skim milk every day," Vance said. "We have fresh ingredients that we add to the yogurt. To the peanut butter, we add peanut butter. We don't add peanut butter flavoring; we add peanut butter. The flavors just come alive."
The new shop will feature 16 flavors at any given time, and they have nearly 70 flavors to put into rotation, according to Vance. He says a smartphone app will tell you which flavors are available each day and provide a survey so people can vote on which flavors will be rotated in next.
Other draws include a dining area with vibrant colors, clean lines and low family-friendly tables.
"It's just a really neat looking brand," Vance said. "It's geared toward families and toward people treating themselves while engaging in conversation with each other."
Vance is a member of the City of Hudson Plan Commission. He owns the Hudson Taco John's franchise and the River Ridge Business Campus, and has been eager to get into the frozen yogurt game for a while. He said he and his wife had been sitting on the sidelines for about a year watching the yogurt trend develop, and they have visited more than 20 diffent yogurt shops in the Midwest before settling on the Orange Leaf brand.
"It's the hottest, fastest-growing new food category," Vance said. "There are a lot of independent shops opening up and now the chains are starting to get into it."
Another reason he chose Orange Leaf is because of its approach to community giving. Vance said that in lieu of a local advertising budget, Orange Leaf works with local nonprofit groups to share a portion of sales on certain days.
"We're going to take Mondays and Tuesdays, and they will be fundraising days," Vance said. "Any 501 (c)(3) organization can come to us and request a day. We will put together a flier for them, and they can distribute that however they wish. Whoever comes in that day and identifies themselves with that organization, 20 percent of their sales goes to the organization."
Vance said the Hudson High School Art Department will be the among the first local organization to take advantage of the program. Art students also are competing for the chance to paint a Hudson community mural inside the shop.
Orange Leaf is the first business to open up in the newly built strip mall at the corner of Carmichael Road and Center Drive. Other tenants in the new building will include Noodles & Company and Sport Clips. Three are still available for lease.