Good, high-quality yogurt, ice cream and gelato at a gas station—with a gazillion toppings? If you think that’s a shocker, try this on for size: it’s almost all certified kosher by a rabbi! This according to Josh Miller, who watches over the self-serve operation inside his dad’s Blue Ash Shell gas station on Kenwood Road at Glendale-Milford Road (Rt. 126). And he has the certificate on the wall to prove it.
We’ll get to the kosher part, but first the high-quality product in a gas station, where conventional wisdom might draw other conclusions. Back in 2008, the Miller family wanted to add a yogurt shop inside their family-run gas station. They all love soft serve yogurt and ice cream, so, how about a road trip!? “We drove around (all over the region) and tried a bunch of different products. We went as far south as Lexington (KY) and up to Cleveland (OH). We found a product we really liked that nobody (in Greater Cincinnati) was using—a brand—and it was very good,” Miller said.
“Some of our research from place to place (in the same chain operations of that day), the taste was inconsistent, and the flavors didn’t really pop. We found out a lot of places (big-name chains) use a powder and add dairy or water to mix into it to make the yogurt. Depending on who is making it, if they are not mixing it well or not adding it properly, you get a different result” from time to time and store to store.” Plus, it is a mix, no matter who’s doing it, which smacks of phony to me. Just saying.
“Ours (yogurt and other soft serve items) comes straight from a dairy farm, and they make it on the spot, with all real products. For instance, our strawberry is made with real strawberry puree in it, so you have strawberry seeds” and flecks of berry, Miller said. “So, it’s just much better, and if you put them side by side (with Brand X), you can tell the difference.”
Ok. Quality soft serve yogurt and ice cream and gelato; check. But there is more. Over 100 more, in the category of toppings. The array is impressive. There are toppings that turn your cup of vanilla ice cream or yogurt into a hot fudge treat. Or how about caramel? Chocolate? Sprinkles, anyone? Nuts and crushed Oreo™ cookies and M&M™ type candies and, well, we could go on and on, over 100 times, according to Miller. Frankly, I did not count them, but I would have guessed significantly more than 100, and the challenge for me would be picking, since there are so many fun ones showcased there.
“Lots of toppings; Dad pushed hard for lots of toppings because of the stigma of having a shop in the gas station (to fight the perception of a low budget, so-so product). So, we wanted to make a statement,” he said, with the toppings; a statement that said quality product and class operation to anybody who approached.
Add to all those toppings the soft serve flavors, and the choice iterations explode for you. Miller said his shop offers 15 flavors daily. Some are always available, including vanilla, chocolate and a few others. Some are wildly popular in summer months, such as birthday cake, peanut butter and yellow cake batter. The shop rotates the flavors periodically, but with five machines of three flavors each, you’ll find a lot to tickle your fancy.
Higher quality means higher prices, right? “Well, no. We do pay more for the (soft serve) products, but we don’t pay for the space (in the station house), so we can make our per-ounce price lower. In fact, we have the lowest price in the city, and probably in the state (of Ohio) for our soft serve products. We wanted to make it affordable,” he said.
“We wanted to make Rhino’s a dessert destination, and in summer, people come here and the picnic tables on the side (outside) are full of people. We thought we would have to cut back in the winter months and maybe have fewer flavors, but business is steady enough this time of year to keep it all going,” he said.
As for the kosher certification, the Millers contacted a rabbi and he certified all the soft serve and a good portion of the toppings. The toppings are marked and separated out so that Jewish patrons will be able to distinguish which ones the rabbi has approved. He is in the process of investigating the other items at this time, and Miller believes many more will be added to the kosher list. For Jewish families planning parties, mitzvahs and other events, Miller said he operates a food truck that dispenses soft serve and has a toppings bar as well.
See you at Rhino’s Frozen Yogurt & Soft Serve!
Rhino's Frozen Yogurt & Soft Serve
(In the Blue Ash Shell Store)
10415 Kenwood Road
Cincinnati, OH 45242