HOPING TO REVERSE the location’s recent trend of short-lived eateries, Tropical Smoothie Café, at 154 1/2 Pleasant St. in Brunswick, opened Aug. 3 and has done increasing business ever since, according to owner Mike Turpin and his eight employees.

HOPING TO REVERSE the location’s recent trend of short-lived eateries, Tropical Smoothie Café, at 154 1/2 Pleasant St. in Brunswick, opened Aug. 3 and has done increasing business ever since, according to owner Mike Turpin and his eight employees.

BRUNSWICK

Sometimes in business, product drives location while other times, as syntactical guru Yogi Berra allegedly said, it’s the other way around in reverse.

SERVER CRESTEN FARMER pours a “Chocolate Chimp” smoothie for a customer. Manager Sarah Palmiter said business was slow at first, but now “each day we’re getting a little busier. We have some (regulars) who come in twice a day.”

SERVER CRESTEN FARMER pours a “Chocolate Chimp” smoothie for a customer. Manager Sarah Palmiter said business was slow at first, but now “each day we’re getting a little busier. We have some (regulars) who come in twice a day.”

During the past several years, the small, shiny drive-through building at 154 1/2 Pleasant St. — sandwiched on the southbound side between a national fast-food chain and a doggie daycare — has undergone a mild identity crisis. Introduced as a niche coffee shop, it survived for a few years before morphing into a barbecue and ribs joint, then to its most recent and healthy incarnation of a horse-latitudes smoothie bar.

New tenant Mike Turpin believes his Tropical Smoothies Café franchise is the product for which the high-traffic, but somewhat difficult-to-access location has been waiting.

There are about 350 franchises in the country. Pleasant Street is Turpin’s second Maine location; the first is on Western Avenue in South Portland, where it draws both foot and motor traffic from the Maine Mall. That restaurant serves about 400 customers each day, Turpin said. It’s an ideal spot because of the sheer volume of traffic.

However, he also has lofty expectations for Brunswick’s shop, which has been open for business about seven weeks and consistently draws about 100 customers per day.

Of those, about 40 are “regulars” who show up daily and for whom the eight-person staff almost can predict what the order will be, he said.

Manager Sarah Palmiter said business was slow at first, but now “each day we’re getting a little busier. We have some (regulars) who come in twice a day.”

The name implies “smoothies,” blended concoctions that include various types of fruits and juices, as well as nutritional or dietary supplements if requested. But the menu also includes hot foods such as breakfast and lunch wrap sandwiches, side orders and kids’ meals, as well.

It’s the hot menu that Turpin is counting on to maintain winter traffic at the drivethrough restaurant whose color scheme and signature product seem better-suited to equatorial locales.

At 24 ounces, the smoothies themselves are monstrous, served in styrofoam cups that usually bear a cheery message inscribed by whomever is piloting the blender. It’s a part of the business model, Turpin said.

“Yeah, they’re large,” he said. “We’ll split ’em into two cups for you, but we really can’t shorten them down because our recipes are made for 24-ounce servings.”

An exception is made for the kids’ menu, which features simpler versions of the drinks in a 12-ounce size.

Within five years, Turpin plans to have “at least 10” Tropical Smoothie Cafés in operation from Maine to Massachusetts.

At 42, Utah-born Turpin said he “has lived in 15 states and managed quite a few (businesses).” He discovered Tropical Smoothie Café franchises in Virginia while visiting with some friends.

“I was hooked after that first visit,” he said, “and I know that’s all I have to do is get customers to the store once.”

He already has a signed agreement for a new Biddeford store, and he’s negotiating for one in Somersworth, N.H., which abuts Dover and, across the Maine border, the Berwicks.

Motor access to the Pleasant Street store can be challenging for northbound traffic. Likewise, customers who already have procured their drink, sandwich or wrap have to negotiate considerable traffic to get back onto Pleasant Street.

Certain times of day, it can be a bit of a bear.

But the culinary novelty of the large, 24- ounce drink and other menu items so far has taken on a dedicated following.

“We have people who use them as meal substitutions, they come in twice a day,” Palmiter said. “It’s not fast food, it does take a little longer to make because everything we serve is made fresh-to-order.”

Specialty variations such as Island Green, which incorporate five fruits and vegetables — kale, spinach and mangos among them — are a favorite of the body-as-temple set.

One issue yet to be resolved is outdoor seating and pedestrian access: Pleasant Street is the only Smoothie location in the country, Turpin said, that lacks seating and walk-up service. It’s on his business plan to include limited outdoor seating in 2014. The town’s Planning Board currently is waiting for Turpin to submit an application to modify the site plan that will address separating vehicular and pedestrian patronage.

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¦ THERE ARE about 350 Tropical Smoothies Café franchises in the country. Pleasant Street in Brunswick is Mike Turpin’s second Maine location; the first is on Western Avenue in South Portland, where it draws both foot and motor traffic from the Maine Mall. That restaurant serves about 400 customers each day, Turpin said. It’s an ideal spot because of the sheer volume of traffic.


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