For three years, the Judd Street building between the chocolate shop and cafe sat dark. But not exactly quiet.
Inside, David Heieren was executing a vision, installing and tweaking until he had everything just right.
“It was like a Willy Wonka thing,” he said. “I was in here, the door was locked and townspeople were passing by. They figured something was happening. But when we finally opened people were surprised by how it turned out.”
Granted, a surf-inspired anything would be a surprise for the riverside village. But with Robin’s West Coast upbringing and the family’s enduring connections there, a beachy frozen yogurt shop seemed a natural fit for the building’s vintage vibe.
“David wanted to save the old buildings in Marine,” Robin explained. “He saw this one for sale and he wanted to put something in that was kind of like the coffee shop we used to go to in Newport Beach. I come from California and we wanted to bring a little bit of that. The surf shops there weren’t all fixed and new and glamorous. They were mom and pop places.”
“They were the busy ones,” David said. “The ones you really wanted to go.”
“We wanted to make it like it had been there forever,” Robin said.
“Keeping the charm of the town and the building,” David added.
It’s not the first time the Heierens have started something from scratch, waiting until everything was just right to unveil the results. The family bought property near Big Carnelian Lake in May Township in 2000. David spent years building their home on an old cabin site before the family moved in in 2004.
The Surf Yogurt Bar shares its home with St. Croix Coffee Roasters, the Heieren’s associated coffee roasting company.
“We both love coffee,” Robin said of the earliest sparks of the two businesses. “So David wanted to roast coffee. And then we wanted to offer something kind of simple, and I wanted something a little healthier than ice cream.”
“We took a frozen yogurt machine home for six months,” David said. “We picked the best one. It was more expensive but had the best nutritional value and probiotic cultures. … They’re mostly fat free and for the most part made with fruit sugar.”
“But of course then you can load it up with candy,” Robin laughed. “We wanted fun options for the kids. We have a lot of junior highers and little kids who come in. … We wanted it to be family friendly.”
The couple has three children — Sadie, 16, Finn, 13, and Cece, 11 — all of whom went to Marine Elementary School. And David described the shop as a family venture.
Rather than competing with existing local businesses, the Heierens hope the shop, which opened last year, draws more people to town.
“We’re kind of filling the middle void of a place to come in and sit down, for families, or anybody,” David said. “It could be an 85 year old.
“Our goal was not only to be a place for kids and families,” he continued, “but to add to the limited number of things there are to do in Marine. We’re hoping some momentum might come from it for everybody, the Marine Café, the chocolate shop, the General Store. Everybody, I think, benefits from another business. Although some people think things work the other way around, usually the more places there are to do things, the more people get off the highway, come into town and get out of their car and walk around. We think it’s good for the whole community.”