Berkeley O'Keefe and his family love where they live in Sudbury, near the Wayland town line. Everything they've needed during their eight years in town has been readily available and convenient.
Well, almost everything.
“We always felt it was lacking in the dessert area," O'Keefe said.
His family toyed with the idea of opening an ice cream store, even going so far as to dream up ice cream flavors and create them at home.
But a trip to Florida changed the focus a bit.
The O'Keefe family was on vacation in the Sunshine State when they stumbled across Orange Leaf, a self-serve frozen yogurt shop. Over the course of their vacation, the family found themselves returning again and again, trying different combinations of yogurt and toppings and generally falling in love with the concept and product.
"We really liked the yogurt," O'Keefe said, adding that the whole family loves the peanut butter flavor, though he tends to go for fruity options while his kids flock to the decadent toppings. "It's great for the kids because we could just get a little dollop. And I’m picky about things, so I really liked being able to do it.”
Suddenly, the focus for the dessert shop changed from ice cream to something a bit healthier.
Last summer, O'Keefe began working with Wayland Town Center developers to open a franchise location of Orange Leaf. Now, a year-and-a-half later, he's hoping to open the shop before the end of the year.
O'Keefe will serve as the owner and general manager of Orange Leaf and has plans to leave his job with the MSPCA to manage the business full-time.
He's nervous about starting his first business, but he's confident in what he'll have to offer.
“It’s a very family-friendly uplifting environment," he said. "You get to do exactly what you want. You can get it exactly as you want it. You can make it as healthy as you want it, to as sinful as you want it.”
O'Keefe said he's enjoyed working with Orange Leaf because the company strongly encourages its franchises to make each location unique to the community.
With the exception of proprietary jelly-filled beans, O'Keefe said the topping selection is entirely up to the local owner. He's hoping to put a Boston-centric twist to his toppings bar by exploring local candies such as Necco wafers and Boston Baked Beans.
In addition, O'Keefe said he hopes to purchase as many of Orange Leaf's products, particularly the fresh fruit, from local suppliers.
“One of the reasons why we chose this franchise is they want to be there to support, but they want us to do our own thing," O'Keefe said. "What I really hope is to be a part of the community. We are a very community-oriented family. We want to be involved in the community and seen as a high-quality part of the community.”
"The business aspect of it interests me," said O'Keefe, who holds a degree in business management. "But it’s also something I can do for my family, my friends and the community. We saw a need and we were able to meet the need.”