Slow-churned and made fresh daily ice cream equals success for this small island business

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By Diana Colson

THE ORANGE OCTOPUS offers delicious handmade ice cream in 24 luscious flavors. Located in Captain Curt’s Plaza at 1220 Old Stickney Point Road, it serves ice cream in cups or homemade waffle cones, signature sundaes, milk shakes, and root beer floats. It also has a full espresso bar with cold and hot drinks. This welcoming shop is the perfect place to stop for a cool sweet treat or a caffeine pick-me-up.

Moncef and Kim Bennaji are the owners of THE ORANGE OCTOPUS. An upbeat young couple, Moncef is a financial advisor by day, working with GULFCOAST WEATH ADVISORS, an independent firm in downtown Sarasota. Kim holds a Master’s Degree in International Relations. She was thinking of a doctorate before kids and ice cream came into her life.

In 2011, an ice cream shop became available from a family member, and the Bennaji’s decided to buy it. Originally, all flavors of ice cream had been bought from a creamery, but the Bennaji’s decided to do something different. They remodeled and expanded the shop, then dove right in to the ice cream world by making a big investment. Says Moncef, “Without ever having made ice cream, we committed ourselves to buying an ice cream machine with a commercial large batch freezer. We called suppliers, and found that the only things offered were flavorings. Well—why not bring actual ingredients to the mix. It was much more expensive of course, but the product was so much better. That decision worked out amazingly in our favor.”

Owners Kim and Moncef along with their two boys
The Bennaji’s create everything possible themselves, including making their own waffle cones and adding their own extra ingredients. The process they use is to slow-churn in a batch freezer that makes small batches, which is done every morning before the store opens. For example, they make their own Key Lime Pie filling, and use that in constructing their Key Lime ice cream. They make their own brownies, adding them to their Brownie flavored ice cream. They even make their own birthday cakes for Birthday Cake ice cream. Says Moncef “Whenever we can be ‘homemade’ we go truly homemade! We have created flavors that are unique to us, for example, our Kentucky Honey Bourbon. We added real Kentucky Bourbon ounce by ounce until we came up with the perfect formula. It has become one of our most popular flavors. The fun part is not being committed to the industry’s pre-made flavors.”

Kim spends part of her day operating THE ORANGE OCTOPUS along with several employees. It is a warmhearted group, and they help each other out with managing schedules.

There is a happy feeling inside THE ORANGE OCTOPUS, and it is a fragrant, cheerful place. Next time you are near Old Stickney Point Road, stop in and find out for yourself. I recommend the Kentucky Honey Bourbon!

THE ORANGE OCTOPUS is located at 1220 Old Stickney Point Road on Siesta Key, open daily from 11 am to 10 pm. Eat in or take out. Phone: 941-346-0202.

Interior of remodeled shop

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