Q&A: Boyd Feltman shares secrets of Peachwave’s sweet success

Peachwave Yogurt & Gelato is celebrating its 10th year of serving frozen yogurt, gelato, and non-dairy treats in downtown Holland. Owner Boyd Feltman opened the Holland location, at 6 W 8th Street, in 2013 after leaving his corporate career at General Electric. A Michigan native, Feltman and his family chose Holland as the home for both their business and their family. In 2015, Feltman purchased the entire brand and has since made Holland headquarters for the Peachwave chain. 

In this Q & A, The Lakeshore WM talks to Feltman about what has fueled the sweet success of Peachwave Yogurt & Gelato to its 10-year milestone and what’s next for the growing chain.

The Lakeshore: As you look back on the first decade of Peachwave, what do you attribute to the business's success? 

Boyd Feltman: I attribute a lot of our success to the commitment we made to the community from day one. We’re located at the center of downtown Holland, and we wanted to honor that by creating a welcoming, family-friendly, and inclusive environment to delight our friends and neighbors. We spent a lot of time and effort perfecting a fun experience, clean environment, and a quality product. That investment has made it so that the Holland community knows they can come to us for date nights, work meetings, and celebratory events and know they will be greeted with a great experience and product. 

I think another big part of our success has been investing in training and patient staff development. The majority of our staff is made of high school and college students. For many of them, this is their first or second job. We have the opportunity to build a professional foundation for West Michigan’s future workforce, and we don’t take that responsibility lightly. When our employees move to the next step in their career, they leave with a solid foundation of service, purpose, community, and work ethic. Even my new business partner, Kaitlyn VanderMolen, started when she was just 16 as her second job. Time and patient training her over the past eight years has resulted in Kaitlyn being a very competent businesswoman, team role model, and trusted partner.

Additionally, we chose to invest in other community organizations very early on. We’ve partnered with hundreds of organizations and thousands of events. Those partnerships have allowed us to form lasting friendships and have a bigger impact on our community beyond just serving frozen treats. 

TL: What do you think is the future for your business and business model over the next 10 years?

BF: I think the biggest change will be how we respond to evolving technology. We’ve developed a loyalty program, worked with delivery services and tried to adapt to dietary trends that weren’t always intuitive to us. As technology and food trends evolve and expand, I see us working to develop new perks and opportunities for our employees, customers and licensees – all tested and developed at the flagship Holland store, of course.

TL: How has your product and business model adapted to changing tastes?

BF: Our flavor profile has changed a lot since I purchased the company. We’ve added over 60 new flavors, twists, smoothies and float recipes and retired dozens. That's based on changing tastes in the community and across the country. The Holland location serves as the Peachwave headquarters, and we test every new flavor here before it’s distributed to other locations. That means every new flavor gets the stamp of approval from the West Michigan community, which I think is special. 

We’ve also adapted to a change in health consciousness. A lot of people pay attention to their sugar intake, people are conscious of dietary restrictions, and no one wants to sacrifice on delicious flavor or a creamy texture. We’re proud to have developed high protein/high fiber soft-serve gelato, expanded nondairy flavors with plans for more, and added lower sugar flavors via all-natural stevia-sweetened flavors, so that nothing is sweetened artificially.

TL:  What do you think was your best and worst decision when starting your business?

BF: Coming from the corporate world, it was difficult at first to train and manage teens and young adults who were early in their professional careers. I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been to deal with flexible scheduling and training young professionals. It took me a while to adapt to an entirely different workforce, and being underprepared for that was something that I struggled with at first. I’m happy to say that after 10 years we’ve definitely worked out the kinks! 

In contrast, something I’m happy I got involved with from the very beginning was a partnership with the Ready for School program. The Ready for School program helps to prepare pre-K children for kindergarten by investing in their literacy, social skills, and basic knowledge by equipping families with the tools and resources to get their child ready for school. We did our first fundraiser with them the first year we were open and raised over $10,000 for underserved children. Several more fundraisers followed with tens of thousands of dollars more raised. Shortly thereafter I was asked to join their board of directors and later became an officer of the board. 

Joining the board for Ready for School opened so many doors for me and the business. I met many business partners and friends, which led to an explosion of community involvement. I joined the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), which then led me to help a leadership group raise funding for the remodel of the Holland Civic Center. I then joined a strategic advisory group for the establishment of Holland’s sustainable energy plan due to relationships made via the Holland DDA. Finally, I am currently serving on the West Coast Chamber of Commerce board of directors due to connections made through the Ready for School volunteer work. It’s been a blast to learn about and contribute to West Michigan from so many public, non-profit, and private for-profit perspectives. 

I felt such a hole in my heart for community involvement when I was working in the corporate world, and that hole was a lack of connectedness. We would do one or two “community days” per year, but we didn’t have deep, meaningful roots in the places we lived and worked in the corporate sector. Forming deep relationships and getting involved from the very beginning solidified for me that I made the right choice to call Holland a place I wanted to live, work, and play. 

TL: Being active in the community is a big part of your identity. Tell us about your involvement and how and why you make time for it while balancing the demands of your business and family. 

BF: This comes down to my value system. I have learned to make decisions based on my values, and I value being part of a strong community ecosystem. I value investing in Holland, which is why owning the building Peachwave is located in and restoring it to make it beautiful from the start was so important to me. Also, when I purchased the Peachwave brand in 2015, it was an easy choice to call Holland its HQ. Luckily, this is just as important to my family, our Peachwave team, and much of the Holland community.
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