Shawnee family opens first Tropical Smoothie Cafe in Kansas
It was on a Florida vacation two summers ago that the Andersen family of Shawnee got hooked on Tropical Smoothie Café.
“That’s when I fell in love with it,” said Missy Andersen of the nationwide fast-casual franchise that offers an assortment of smoothies, sandwiches, wraps and other foods. She said her husband, Scott Andersen, an engineer who travels frequently, had first discovered and become a big fan of Tropical Smoothie Café on his work trips to the East Coast. And while on that Florida vacation, he took his family there to eat lunch.
“We love the food,” Missy Andersen said. “We love the idea that you can eat or you can replace your meal with a smoothie, with a snack or whatever.”
Now, two years later, Missy and Scott Andersen are owners of the first Kansas-based Tropical Smoothie Café franchise, which they officially opened Dec. 5 in Lenexa at 12850 W 87th St. Parkway. The couple had been toying with the idea of starting their own business for some time, said Missy Andersen, who up until recently had been largely a stay-at-home mom for years. Originally, they had tried to open another franchise, but “things just weren’t quite panning out the way we were wanting them to,” she said. After that Florida lunch, however, the idea for another kind of business began to take hold in their minds.
Among some of the challenges that naturally come with opening a business was finding a location. It took the family about five or six months to find the perfect spot, said Andrew Andersen, a senior at Shawnee Mission Northwest. He and his brother, SM Northwest sophomore Austin Andersen, are helping their parents out at the new restaurant when school responsibilities allow. The hope was to open in Shawnee, Missy Andersen said, “where we go to church, where we go to school, where our friends are.” But when a suitable place didn’t present itself, a spot in Lenexa’s Greystone South Plaza just a short distance away from the Andersen’s home base seemed to be the next best thing.
Though Tropical Smoothie Café is now located in more than 38 states, the Andersens’ franchise is the first Kansas-based one. And Missy Andersen admits that opening a smoothie business in December wasn’t exactly ideal — the plan was to open earlier, but the logistics of opening took longer than expected, she said.
“We were like, what are we doing? It’s Christmas, it’s winter, it’s cold,” she said. “You’re opening a smoothie shop and then nobody knew about us. But that’s been our big push, is that we’re not just smoothies.”
She credits the variety of food that Tropical Smoothie Café also offers, from fish tacos to a Jamaican jerk chicken wrap, as being one of the main reasons the business has been drawing a significant number of customers over the first two months of its existence.
“Our sales and meeting new people and new customers have just continually been rising since we’ve opened,” she said. “Every day it’s encouraging. Because there’s new people that come in and that’s one of the things that’s fun.”
The place truly is a family affair. Scott Andersen handles a lot of the behind-the-scenes responsibilities, from paperwork to marketing. Andrew and Austin, who work on weekends and a couple of nights during the school week, do everything from working the register to making smoothies and food, “whatever needs to be done,” Andrew said.
“We just do whatever’s needed,” he said. “We’re all trained in each different department.”
By virtue of friendships and word-of-mouth at SM Northwest, Andrew and Austin are also largely responsible for having recruited the majority of employees at Tropical Smoothie Café. Out of 32 staff members, 20 are fellow SM Northwest students, Andrew said.
Like her sons, Missy Andersen also tackles just about everything that’s needed in the store, and enjoys most her time in the front working with customers.
“I am here a lot,” she said. “I want to be the front. I want to meet the people. That’s important for me. I like touching base with the customers.”
Of course, the business has its mainstay, and that’s its assortment of smoothies, listed in “classic,” “superfood,” “supercharged” and “indulgent” categories in the menu. Missy and Andrew Andersen said their smoothies might stand out from those served at other businesses because of the shop’s more health-based focus. Spinach, kale and whole grain oats are listed as main ingredients in several of Tropical Smoothie Café’s fruit-based offerings. And when it comes to fruit, that means the whole fruit and nothing but the fruit, Missy Andersen said, noting that “very few concentrates and juices” are used in any smoothie recipe.
“We tend to have more whole foods,” Andrew said.
Though the business has only been open for two months, Missy Andersen already has one clear future goal in mind.
“We want to expand,” she said. “We want to have more. We’d like to have more within the surrounding area. I would hope by the end of our first year, that we’re probably looking at going ahead and opening another (Tropical Smoothie Café).”
A full menu can be downloaded at www.tropicalsmoothie.com.