New dessert store hosts food driveWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
Koala Berry Premium Frozen Yogurt & Ice Cream, a “design your own dessert” concept eatery, plans to host a food drive, starting at its ribbon-cutting ceremony Jan. 28.
The storefront, which opened in mid-December at Toledo’s Regency Plaza, offers 18 yogurt and soft-serve ice cream flavors and 50 toppings. Nonperishable items collected at the location will be donated to the Toledo Northwestern Ohio Food Bank. As part of the “Drop Off, Save Big” program, anyone who donates gets 20 percent off any purchase and the promotion’s end date hasn’t been set.
Koala Berry co-owners Kenneth Breier and John Robie decided to use the ceremony to help business and charity.
“We had heard that the food bank was in need and we thought it would be a good idea to develop some community interest with the food bank and incorporate that into our ribbon-cutting,” said Breier, who aims to collect 1,000 items.
“We think [the food drive] is wonderful. The more we can receive the better. There cannot be a better time to commit to the struggle against hunger,” said Laurie Cohen, grants/special events coordinator for the Toledo Northwestern Ohio Food bank. She added that although donations peak during the holidays, “Hunger is not just one part of the year. It affects people every day.”
Koala Berry is self-serve so customers can make their own creations.
“It’s a fairly new concept. It developed East Coast, West Coast and ended up migrating to the middle of the country,” Breier said. The location seats about 25 patrons and is painted in calming blue and purple. Breier and Robie signed their lease in September.
The pair originally wanted to open a “mom and pop” ice cream shop, but were drawn to the self-serve concept. Breier likes the variety self-serve presents. “[Customers] can go as big as they like, they can go as small as they like; they can use as many or as few toppings as they like; they can keep it very healthy or keep it very tasty; it’s up to them,” he said. When customers are done making their desserts, the creations are weighed and priced at $0.45 per ounce.
Flavors include unique options like amaretto cherry liqueur and frosted birthday cake. Toppings feature standards like chocolate and candy as well as many fresh fruits from local vendors. Still, with all the special products, Breier’s favorite is a classic: “Peanut butter with hot fudge, it’s hard to beat,” he said.
The fact that Koala Berry is an independent store enables it to have a better product, Breier added. “We’ve gone to many vendors for our dairy and we’ve settled on a couple and we have no allegiance. We can pick and choose the best flavors or the best tasting product,” he said. This is Breier’s and Robie’s first foray into owning a retail business. Breier has worked in printing for several years while Robie is in health care insurance.
While some expressed their worry about the pair opening a business in the recession, Breier is confident in his new venture and said business has been good so far.
“People ask ‘What on are earth are you doing, opening a new business in this economy?’ Well, the concept came forward, the space was available, the opportunities just kinda presented themselves and we were interested in it so we went forward,” he said.
Depending on the store’s success, Toledo could see more Koala Berry locations in the coming months. “We would love to expand and open more stores in the immediate future,” Breier said.
Last year, the food bank distributed 6 million pounds of food. Some of the most-needed items right now include peanut butter, saltine crackers, 100 percent juices, applesauce, dry pastas, tomato sauce, canned chicken, tuna, spam and beef, soups, dried beans and canned vegetables.
The “Winter Blast” Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony is at noon Jan. 28. Store hours are Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon-8 p.m. Koala Berry is at 6710 Central Ave., Suite 7, Toledo. Visit www.koalaberry.com for more information.