Three of Lexington's four former Graeter's stores, which closed after issues with the franchisee, will become home to Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt. The latter's expansion led Graeter's leaders to say Monday that their planned re-entry into the Lexington market will be delayed.
Orange Leaf entered Lexington in October when a group of three 2001 graduates of Lexington Christian Academy opened a store on West Tiverton Way near Fayette Mall.
The stores are known for their contemporary, upbeat décor, and feature self-serve frozen yogurt dispensers and a large toppings bar. Customers pay by the ounce.
"Because you do everything yourself, you get exactly what you want," said Evan Morris, who operates the Lexington franchise with Bryce Anderson and Jeremiah Sizemore. "If you want multiple flavors or more toppings, you can because it's all customizable.
"The other great thing about it is there's portion control. If you want to come in and get one ounce of yogurt, you can."
The trio had been looking to expand, Morris said.
"When Graeter's left, all of the sudden that opened up all the areas that they had exclusives on," he said.
Morris said rivals' exclusives, which prohibit competitors from locating in the same shopping center, had prevented them from opening in other areas.
The group has financing for three stores — Brighton Place along Man o' War Boulevard near Hamburg, Palomar Centre along Harrodsburg Road and Romany Road — and expects to open them by the end of March.
"From everything we've heard and seen, the Palomar and Brighton Place stores were their most profitable stores ..." he said. " We're not entirely sure on the Romany Road spot.
"It think it's unique and a great spot, so we decided to go for that one as well."
The Palomar and Brighton Place stores will have 16 yogurt flavors each, while Romany, because of its smaller size will have 14. Almost half of the locations' yogurts will be fat-free, Morris said.
That leaves the former Graeter's at Tates Creek Centre as the only one of the ice cream retailer's locations left vacant in Lexington.
"It was not necessarily that the Tates Creek spot was horrible, we just thought the others were better," he said.
The leaders of Graeter's aren't necessarily interested in reopening at Tates Creek Centre, either.
"It wasn't on my A list," said Jim Tedesco, who operates seven Graeter's franchises in Louisville and Southern Indiana and is being tapped to expand here. "There are other locations that I think will be more viable."
Graeter's CEO Richard Graeter turned to Tedesco to re-enter the market after the previous franchisee, International Brand Services, closed its eight stores in Lexington and Northern Kentucky in early December.
The franchisee had been suffering from a "cash crunch" for a while, its leader said, and was having difficulty paying interest due on debt. Cincinnati-based Graeter's had offered to buy the stores but backed out and then terminated the franchise, sealing its fate in the city.
Graeter vowed at the time to reopen here, possibly as soon as spring.
Tedesco and Graeter both said they had met with leaders of Palomar Centre recently about reopening.
"We are very disappointed they didn't want to work with us," Graeter said Monday. "That being said, we are actively looking to find some new homes."