Missouri Western State University students and St. Joseph shoppers landed a new sweet spot on Friday.

The Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and Aspen Leaf Frozen Yogurt partnered with Missouri Western’s Craig School of Business to bring the new, combined store to St. Joseph. The partnership will provide business students with hands-on, entrepreneurial experience.

“This has been one of the most exciting things that I’ve been involved with,” said Dr. Philip Nitse, dean of the Craig school. “This will be something that will not only involve a lot of our students, but give them a place to look at, shop in and work in as a part of their training.”

Invited guests toured the new store, located at 3715 Frederick Blvd., and sampled chocolate treats and yogurt on Friday. The store opens to the public today.

Since 2009, Craig school graduating seniors have been able to compete for a chance to operate and eventually own their own Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory franchise.

With the new partnership, students enrolled in an entrepreneurial class at Western will work in the new store and complete an internship at a franchise without leaving St. Joseph.

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, the gourmet candy store known for fudge-making demonstrations, old-fashioned caramel apples and hand-made chocolates, partnered with Aspen Leaf Self Serve Frozen Yogurt about 18 months ago. Frank Crail, chief executive officer and founder of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, said customers will get the best of both worlds at the St. Joseph store.

“This is our first college partnership, and it’s such a pleasure to work with students because they are so enthusiastic and eager to work,” Mr. Crail said. “That’s just perfect in this type of business.”

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory has 358 stores in 36 states, Canada and the United Arab Emirates.

Dr. Robert Vartabedian, Western’s president, said the university is honored to be a part of the partnership.

“This may become the model of other facilities throughout the United States,” he said. “Our students will be able to train here and not have to travel all over the place before they decide if they would like to take on their own franchise.”

A portion of the store’s profits will be donated to the Craig school.

Following a ribbon-cutting at 10 a.m., the store will open to the public at 11 a.m. today. The event will feature promotional prices of $1 for a gourmet chocolate bar or a 16-ounce frozen yogurt, with musical entertainment and free giveaways.

Kristin Hoppa can be reached at kristin.hoppa@newspressnow.com.

Content © 2011. NPG Newspapers Inc, St. Joseph News-Press & News-Press 3 NOW. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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