Sugar Llamas, the gourmet donut, ice cream, and coffee stop has unofficially opened in downtown Sapulpa on Hobson Street—the first popular food brand to do so.
Opening on Wednesday, the dessert cafe at 119 East Hobson has already shown signs of being a regular stop among all ages. Chad O’Roark, the owner of the location, said the soft opening was met with almost immediate success.
“We had a guy waiting for us to open,” he said. “We normally open at 6:30 a.m., he was here at like 6:15, waiting outside the door. He said ‘I’ve been waiting for you guys to open!'”
More excited customers followed suit. And more, and more still.
According to O’Roark, most of the other Tulsa-area stores make around $500 in their first day. “We did that in the first two-and-a-half hours,” he told Sapulpa Herald, who was present during their first-morning opening. By the next morning, the news was even better: “We did about five times our projected sales yesterday.”
O’Roark got the idea to open a Sugar Llamas when the first one opened near his hometown of Bixby. “I could throw a stone and hit that location from my house,” he joked.
He talked with his wife first, who spent years in the restaurant industry, and said she never wanted to do it again.
“When she saw the concept, she was on board,” he said.
The concept is a bit of a strange one. Donuts are common, as are ice cream and coffee. But together? However novel, the idea is taking hold and spreading like the early stages of a wildfire. Now with six locations in the Tulsa area, more are expected in Arkansas, Texas, and Kansas and can find found as far away as Nebraska and Arizona.
The website at sugarllamas.com sheds some light on the reasoning behind the combination of donuts, coffee, and ice cream: “Say goodbye to the days of ‘I’ll get the kids donuts and then get my coffee somewhere else,’ and hello to your one-stop treat shop—morning, afternoon or night.”
The “morning afternoon and night” bit is bound to be a sticking point for downtown Sapulpa. The shop is currently open from 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and though it could change depending on traffic, O’Roark says they’re going to let the city determine their hours. “If nobody shows up until 7:00 a.m., we’ll open at 7:00 a.m. and get that extra half-hour of sleep,” he says, laughing.
And while the hours were long for the first day of operation, O’Roark is beaming as he talks about how it went. “It’s amazing, I can’t wait to see how it goes when we have our grand opening.”
The Grand Opening, scheduled for later this month, will feature giveaways, live llamas, and some cosplayers dressed up as Iron Man and more. Stay tuned for the exact date and time.
O’Roark says Sugar Llamas is similar to a franchise in the sense that each owner is giving a plan to work from, but they’re all individual license holders, which means they can make any changes they want. Another store has cotton candy. Someone suggested O’Roark sell popcorn, but he declined, saying nearby “GiGi’s Gourmet Popcorn” has already laid claim to that and that he’s not looking to compete with them. “That’s not what we’re about,” he said. “We’re very much about community. We want to be a part of this community. We can all work together to build it up. That’s what we want.”
That doesn’t mean he hasn’t implemented some changes from the standard Sugar Llamas store; for example, unlike most stores, the Sapulpa store has a soda fountain. “It’s great for Root Beer floats or Dr. Pepper floats, which I love,” he said.
And about that ice cream—it’s all made from an award-winning creamery in Michigan, and O’Roark said it’s the only kind that made him switch from Blue Bell. “It’s amazing,” he says. He says they have 12 flavors right now, but they get rotated frequently, so what you get this time might be different from what’s available the next time.
“This one was our biggest seller yesterday,” pointing to a tub of ice cream that looks like someone mixed every color of play-dough into one big batch. It’s called “Superman.”
“It tastes like Cookies and Cream, but it looks like that,” he said, beaming.
He pointed to a sticker on the wall next to the ice cream freezer: “That’s another thing we’re trying, the ‘llamapalooza,’ which is a scoop of every flavor of ice cream into a single bowl.”
That idea comes from a childhood experience that O’Roark had that he’s now trying to recreate for the kids in the Sapulpa area. “I was a little kid and I remember that my brother and I got something like this and when they set that bowl down in front of you, it’s something you never forget,” he said.
O’Roark says that the other stores are already paying attention to what he’s doing, and the owners of the Sugar Llama’s brand are so impressed with the crowd and the building that they’re saying they’ll send other new licensees to get trained here.
The building is currently known as the Boone Insurance Building and not long ago underwent a full renovation by owner Will Berry. From the beginning, Berry was particular about who he wanted to occupy the space. “It needs to be something unique,” he said once.
O’Roark said he knew he wanted it as soon as he saw the inside. The space was not only larger than any other Sugar Llama’s, but it allowed for room to do more than donuts and ice cream.
“We’ve already booked nine or ten birthday parties,” O’Roark said. “We did all that before we even opened. We can have wedding showers, baby showers…the single mom that wants to do something special for others in her friends group—we’re not in it for the room rental. We’re really here because we want to be a part of Sapulpa. We love what’s going on here and we’re excited to be a part of it.”