Yogurt Hut ready to scoop up downtown summer business

Summertime scoops at 39 cents an ounce. That is the pitch coming from Yogurt Hut, a self-serve frozen yogurt shop scheduled to open this week.

Owners George and Susan Orrego bought a home in Ashland in 2006, planning to retire here after George's three-decade firefighting career came to an end. The Berkeley, Calif., couple stayed in the Bay Area through last fall, but visited the Rogue Valley frequently. During their visits, they sampled local food stops, and noticed the town was lacking in one important area:

Frozen yogurt.

"There was one in our neighborhood we really enjoyed," George said of his former Berkeley residence. "There was nothing like that up here."

After briefly considering investment in a yogurt franchise, the couple opted for the road less traveled — their own, independent eatery, called Yogurt Hut.

Located on Lithia Way downtown, Yogurt Hut offers ten flavors of frozen yogurt, as well as candy toppings, low- and non-fat and even non-dairy recipes, all on a self-serve basis. If you cannot make up your mind, "You can have a little bit of all ten," Susan said.

While George was fighting fires, he and his wife also managed a welding company, which his father had started. The result was some much-needed experience in small business administration. But while metal fabrication requires certain unique skills, the service industry is an entirely different arena, and opening their own business has provided the couple with plenty of challenges.

"You have to rely on people for equipment, adjust to how you are doing things," George said, noting that opening a business requires coordinated efforts with carpenters, electricians and others.

"You have to work with the different trades, so you look for companies with good expertise."

The Orregos expect Yogurt Hut will create an equivalent of five full-time jobs, including part time, entry-level work throughout the summer. It has taken several months since the couple officially moved to Ashland, but now that opening day is around the corner, they are cautiously optimistic their business will catch on.

"Our concern in opening a business is that it is economically feasible," George said. He would have valued the help of a consultant, but feels the benefits of going it alone outweighs the cost.

"We learned the mistakes on our own, but we won't be paying somebody."

George and Susan will share the responsibilities of ownership. While each acknowledges the daunting tasks ahead of them, at least Susan is not too worried.

"I think this will be a nice, fun place, a nice little treat that's not real expensive," Susan said. "In this kind of economy that's always a good thing."

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