The first St. Louis-area Kolache Factory opened in Brentwood in 2003. Husband-and-wife team Ryan and Jenni Smith, purchased the franchise restaurant eight years ago and have seen their store skyrocket to the No. 2 position in terms of sales out of about 60 Kolache Factory locations nationwide.
This success is a stark contrast to the store’s positioning prior to the Smiths’ purchase. Ryan says there isn’t just one thing that’s key to making the restaurant successful. Instead, it’s a general philosophy that their employees always keep in mind:
“I still put myself in the shoes of the consumer,” Ryan says. “On a weekly basis, I walk through the front door as if I’m coming in to buy kolaches and ask myself, ‘What do I want if I’m spending my hard-earned money?’” His answer is to put out the best product they can, always.
The first Kolache Factory opened in 1982 in Houston, where it’s currently based. The Brentwood location is the oldest franchised store outside of Texas. The Smith duo decided to purchase the franchise after the market crash in 2008. “I was working in the housing industry,” Ryan says. “When everything crashed, I started seeking different opportunities. We decided to do our own business and came across this opportunity.”
Ryan and Jenni were regular customers before owning the franchise. Ryan’s first experience with Kolache was when his brother-in-law attempted – and failed – to explain what the pastry was and instead took him to go try one. For the unfamiliar, kolaches are a lightly sweet baked pastry stuffed or topped with fruit, sweet or savory fillings, and their roots date back to Eastern Europe in the 1700s.
“They’re like a stuffed Hawaiian roll,” Ryan says.
Kolache Factory takes advantage of the pastry’s versatility and has options for if you’re in the mood for something savory or need to quench a sweet-tooth craving. The most popular menu item is the sausage and gravy, which comes highly recommended from the restaurant staff and is a familiar flavor for those looking to try one for the first time. Additional house favorites include Polish sausage; sausage, egg and cheese; Italian chicken; and Buffalo chicken. On the sweet side, must-trys include cream cheese-stuffed kolaches, a fruit-filled option or sticky buns.
All dough is made in house every single day, meaning everything for sale on a given day was made a maximum of four hours prior. That freshness is tough to beat and takes a skilled forecasting approach to find the balance of having enough for guests to purchase without wasting food.
Kolaches have become quite the popular pick-up food in the metro. The Smiths will be opening their second location in Manchester, Missouri, near the intersection of Manchester Road and Highway 141. And, stay tuned for a third location that they’re currently scoping.
The goal isn’t to expand just for the sake of expanding, especially because the husband-and-wife team are very hands-on owners. Instead, just as the Smiths and the Brentwood employees ask themselves every day and what has consistently earned them the top-two earnings spot, the goal will always be to put out the best product possible.
Kolache Factory-Brentwood, 2604 S. Brentwood Blvd., Brentwood, Missouri, 314.968.2253, kolachefactory.com