LAKEWOOD RANCH — Nearly 20 years have gone by since Dennis and Nancy Yoder sold the last of their five Big Olaf Creamery stores and stepped into retirement.
Only an offer lucrative enough could have lured them out of it.
But it’s happened.
On June 4, Dennis Yoder signed a lease for the 1,675-square-foot space formerly occupied by Bruster’s Real Ice Cream on Lakewood Ranch Main Street.
Yoder and Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty President Brian Kennelly headed to the site to scoop ice cream for Main Street merchants and passers-by shortly after finalizing the lease.
Big Olaf Creamery and Yoder’s Amish Shoppe will be a walk-in parlor with a wide selection of ice creams as well as Amish made bread, rolls, cookies, pies, cakes, jams and jellies, relishes, meat, cheese and more.
“It’s going to be an unusual ice cream store,” Yoder said with a chuckle.
A few renovations are necessary, including the demolition of part of the front wall to make room for an angled entry on the corner. Additionally, the new shop will have counter areas with barstools inside for seating.
“I’m really thrilled,” said Carl Robbins, who used to bike to Main Street for ice cream with his children. “It gave us a place to go. It’s a great family thing.”
Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty has been working on filling the space since Bruster’s closed suddenly Nov. 3 and was emptied the next day.
Customers received no warning of the store’s closing. Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty also had been taken by surprise and began marketing the site to national and regional ice cream retailers. The company didn’t have to look far.
As sales manager for Big Olaf’s current owner, the Peacheys family, Dennis Yoder already had been eyeing Lakewood Ranch for a new ice cream parlor. As soon as he heard the news about Bruster’s closing, he called Lakewood Ranch about filling the space.
Big Olaf was at the top of Lakewood Ranch’s list, too. Negotiations began, and Yoder tried unsuccessfully to find someone to open the new store.
“I wasn’t really able to really find someone who was willing to take it,” Yoder said. “Besides that, Lakewood Ranch was trying to get me, the founder, to come in since I know the business. Had it not been in Lakewood Ranch or a beach location, I wouldn’t have done it. It’s just too tough.”
Yoder and his wife, Nancy, founded Big Olaf Creamery in 1982, when the couple purchased the rights to produce the first waffle cones in Florida. Patrons drove from as far as Orlando for the treats, and soon, the Yoders helped set up Busch Gardens and Sea World theme parks to make waffle cones for their guests.
Dennis Yoder began making his own ice cream in 1983, and many of the recipes he created are still used today. At its peak, the couple owned five creameries but sold the last one in 1990 to retire. Yoder said he and his wife could not be more excited to get started with their new venture.
“I’m very thankful,” Yoder said. “I have a strong faith in God, and I really thank Him for the health and energy to be able to do this at this time.”
Big Olaf Creamery and Yoder’s Amish Shoppe is expected to open mid-August.
Contact Pam McTeer at [email protected].