Thursday, November 15, 2012

Rick Kasperbauer answered the call on his daily run, this one 4 miles with a stretch of beach at Marco Island, Fla., where the longtime Carroll businessman and wife, Laurie, are spending more time these days.

Since 1980 the couple have been running hard with Kasperbauer Cleaners, building it into a strong presence in Carroll at 322 W. Seventh St. One of their four children, Michael, is now managing the cleaning business here.

“Michael entered the picture, and he just does a great job,” Rick, 52, said.

So about a year ago, Rick and Laurie decided to spend more time in Marco Island, an island city of 16,000 people off the southwest coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico. The Kasperbauers have vacationed there since the 1990s.

Business is strong in Carroll, and the children are on to their own pursuits, with the latest, Jay, a recent Iowa State University graduate, now working in Minneapolis.

It was time to enjoy the fruits of labor. But the Kasperbauers didn’t exactly go all in for lazy-days-on-the-beach Florida living.

On July 11, they opened an Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt restaurant in Fort Myers, a city of 63,000 people about 50 miles north of Marco Island. Orange Leaf is one of the hottest food franchises in the nation, spoken in the same breath with Five Guys (the delicious burger joint).

The Kasperbauers saw the Orange Leaf in Ames while they visited Jay before his graduation. Most patrons just enjoy the self-serve yogurt. Rick scouted the place as a business opportunity, quickly finding the Ames franchisee and talking him up about all things Orange Leaf. The two are friends to this day.

“We go in there, and they’re busy,” Rick said.

They had also patronized a yogurt shop (although not an Orange Leaf) in the Kansas City area, where daughter Maggie, an attorney, and son-in-law, Tyler Anderson, are involved with Blue Sky Cleaners of Shawnee, Kan, a two-location business in the Kasperbauer network.

“It was busy all the time,” Rick said of the yogurt shop. “And a little light went off.”

He’s still connected with the cleaning business, working with both the books and advertising. And Laurie is busy in real estate with Harbor View Realty in Marco Island. But they couldn’t shake the idea of the Orange Leaf.

They opened the Orange Leaf in a shopping center with a Target and Home Depot. The yogurt joint is right next door to Five Guys. A new Italian restaurant soon will be located in the area, too.

“I’m right around where there’s a lot of food,” Rick said.

The self-serve yogurt concept has taken off nationally. According to Nation’s Restaurant News, the Oklahoma City-based company recently opened its 200th store and has nearly 100 more in the works.

The obvious question: What about Carroll for an Orange Leaf?

“I would love to do that more than anything in the world,” Rick said.

He added, “Michael keeps telling me that, too.”

But the Kasperbauers want to see how the Fort Myers franchise goes first.

“The jury’s still out on this store,” Rick said.