OMG! Yogurt Satisfies Sweet Teeth, Offers Healthy Alternative
“OMG! We’re opening up a yogurt store!”
Those were the words Wall resident Jackie Stephanides spoke in disbelief one morning last year. And with that, her husband, Greg Stephanides, had the perfect name for his first business — OMG! Yogurt.
The frozen yogurt store, located on Route 35 in Wall, opened its doors for business this past December and has seen success ever since. And although frozen treats may not be hard to come by at the Jersey Shore, the high quality products offered at OMG! are, and Mr. Stephanides is consistently working with his manufacturers to keep it that way.
“We’re constantly trying to find the ultimate product with the best possible flavor with the best possible quality of product,” Mr. Stephanides said.
OMG! offers an almost entirely organic product line, and most of its yogurt is gluten free, nut free, egg free, fat free and soy free. The yogurt is also free of aspartames, fructose corn syrup and genetically modified organisms [GMOs].
“We chose to do an organic line. If it’s not organic, we try to be as pure as we can with an all-natural line,” Mr. Stephanides said.
A first-time business owner, Mr. Stephanides has taught tennis for almost all of his life, most recently at The Atlantic Club in Wall.
He started playing the sport at 6 years old and started teaching it at 14.
“I’ve been in tennis all my life,” he said. “I’ve taught for 38 years.”
After being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2009, Mr. Stephanides was no longer able to keep up with the work load he needed to sustain and went in search of a new way to earn income.
Shortly after, he set his sights on a new business endeavor.
While looking for jobs down in Georgia, Mr. Stephanides happened to step inside a business he immediately felt a connection to.
“This is the greatest place in the world,” he said of entering the shop for the first time.
Unsurprisingly, it was a frozen yogurt store.
“I’d never seen one. I’d never heard of Yo Mon or any of them,” he said. “I went … ‘I’m going to do this up there [in New Jersey].’ My wife patted me on my back and said, ‘That’s nice,’” Mr. Stephanides said, laughing.
He immediately headed to the Internet to research his new discovery and the idea for OMG! Yogurt was born.
THE BEAUTY OF IT
What really drew him in to opening his own frozen yogurt store was the idea that patrons can basically choose how much they want to eat — and spend.
“It’s just a great concept … pay by weight,” he said.
The beauty of the pay by weight concept, Mr. Stephanides said, is that it fits the profile of virtually every person. Instead of being forced into choosing a specific size, like small or large, each person can choose how much or little they want.
“When she comes, she’s $1.50, I’m a $6.25,” Mr. Stephanides said of he and his wife. “You can control what you want. And you can control the price of what you want.”
OMG! offers 14 yogurt flavors to choose from, which vary from day to day. But, there are still the staple flavors that will more than likely always be available when someone stops in, such as vanilla, chocolate, cake batter and peanut butter.
Those who are in the mood to indulge will also be in the right place, as OMG! does not disappoint when it comes to toppings.
“We have more than 58 toppings,” Mr. Stephanides said, including all natural granola and fruit cut fresh everyday.
For those who want to mix it up a bit, OMG! also offers smoothies, milkshakes, blended yogurt, yogurt sandwiches and pre-packed yogurt.
Those who frequent the store often will find it easier to determine how much frozen yogurt and toppings they want to put in their cup.
“What we try to do is help the parents understand the size, what the cost would be if they filled it up this much, so they have a little better head start on it,” Mr. Stephanides said.
In making OMG! come to life, Mr. Stephanides had a specific vision in mind — he did not want his store to look just like an ice cream shop.
“I wanted it to be very, very relaxed. I wanted the feeling of a Borders, or somewhere you can bring a book and sit and read and eat your yogurt. Yet, a hint of youth,” he said.
To make his vision a reality, he worked with the Wall-based building company Osprey-Martin.
“They were phenomenal in helping me do this,” he said. “They were so flexible about seeing the vision I had for this and allowed me to be able to get to my vision.”
The OMG! theme did not stop at Ms. Stephanides’ exclamation that morning last year.
His sister, Andrea Craig, of Spring Lake, created OMG! artwork in the store, which includes pictures of different “OMG!” moments, such as hanging off a cliff.
“It’s these great moments in time when you say, “Oh my God,” Mr. Stephanides explained.
Mr. Stephanides said the OMG! feeling also sweeps over customers when they taste the yogurt.
“So many times people come in and taste the flavor,” he said, “and say, ‘Oh my God, it tastes like banana bread!’ and you go, ‘OMG!’”
Mr. Stephanides’ initial vision for OMG! has come to fruition, as he said the store has become a relaxing hangout spot for the community.
“We find a lot of teens and a lot of adults come here at night and sit after dinner,” he said. “They can sit on the couch and they can talk.”
Though Mr. Stephanides said he is usually at his yogurt store overseeing everything seven days each week, he also has help from a staff of great employees.
“Their knowledge about the product line and how they can help the customers is very strong,” he said. “I’m one of the luckiest people to have the staff that I do. I have a very, very good staff.”
Since OMG!’s opening, Mr. Stephanides has used the business to give back to a variety of benefits and cancer-related causes.
At the store’s grand opening, a large percentage of the sales went to help fund pancreatic cancer research. It has also donated to and been involved with events in the local area, such as Squanathon and Big Sea Day.
“We’re trying to get involved as much as we can,” Mr. Stephanides said.
FALLING INTO PLACE
Though Mr. Stephanides’ business came to fruition due to his cancer diagnosis, he said he has been fortunate that everything has fallen into place.
“What we wanted to do was figure out how to do this new lifestyle and when this fell into place, it kind of just created its own momentum,” he said.
As for his former tennis career, Mr. Stephanides said it will still live on.
“I’d like to still keep my hand in a little bit, because it was so much fun,” he said.
“The Atlantic Club was phenomenal to me and everything I went through,” he continued. “It’s amazing that going through what I went through, how things are put in your life afterwards to help you along.”
OMG! is located at 2153 Route 35 in Wall. It is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. during the summer. Their winter hours will change slightly.
The store can be contacted at 732-359-8164 or found online at www.omgyogurtstore.com or on Twitter @OMG_Yogurt.