Imagine loving a product so much that you don't want to just visit the store, you want to own one. Such was the case with Fairfield couple Mark and Alison Smith, longtime commuters to New York City who couldn't get enough of Tasti D-Lite.

The Smiths celebrated the birth of a baby boy 17 months ago but last week celebrated another milestone - their first Tasti D-Lite center. Mark Smith, who spoke to the Fairfield Citizen during an "opening night preview" on Oct. 19, said the business was his wife's idea.

"She was craving it when she couldn't get it in the city," he said, adding her favorite flavor is peanut butter cup.

Another incentive for becoming entrepreneuers was so one of them could end their commute and spend more time at home.

"I had a little boy and was commuting three-plus hours a day," said Smith, who can now get to work in a few minutes.

The product served at his store might look like ice cream or yogurt, but looks can be deceiving. It's not ice cream because it has less than 10 percent butterfat and not enough total food solids to be considered ice cream. It's not frozen yogurt because it has no fermented yogurt cultures. So what is it? It is a soft serve frozen dessert that is lower in fat and calories than similar-looking treats sold elsewhere.

"We call it Tasti D-Lite," said Martin Azambuya, an operations consultant who was at the opening night preview last week. Asked if a year-round dairy treat business can succeed in the winter months, Azambuya was confident it will.

"It's more of a lifestyle," he said. "The people inclined to have Tasti D-Lite care more about what they're ingesting. They care about the quality of their food. It's one of the reasons why Tasti D-Lite becomes a habit for so many people."

But the Smiths didn't open any ol' Tasti D-Lite center. At 1,800 square feet, including two full-sized bathhooms with changing stations and a lounge at the rear of the store, it is the largest Tasti D -Lite in the country.

The center, which has free wi-fi access, will also have a rotating gallery of art from local artists on display. This month, Smith's photography can be seen on the walls of the lounge.

Tasti D-Lite offers four to six flavors each day, including Dutch Chocolate and French Vanilla. However, employees can also create a custom blend in any of more than 100 flavors any time, any day. Various samples were given out during the opening night preview last week and each one proved a hit, from Bananas Foster to Strawberry Shortcake.

Fairfield resident Ron Brandt tried the Peanut Butter and the Dutch Chocolate and thought they were great.

As he looked at the long lost list of flavors he has yet to taste, he told the Fairfield Citizen: "I'll scratch them off as I try them."

Ann Devine brought her three children to Tasti D-Lite and after the samples were consumed, she said with a smile, "I think we found a new ice cream place."

Tasti D-Lite employee Danaisha Davidson said that "everyone likes it," and many commented that it's far lighter on the stomach than what they're used to.

Fairfield resident Tracey Golon said having a Tasti D-Lite in Fairfield with tables and chairs will be a good alternative to going out for coffee with friends. It's not that there's anything wrong with coffee with friends, she said, "but sometimes you're not in the mood for coffee."

"You want something lighter, something different," Golon said.

Geraldine Scartozzi, who showed up at the opening night preview with her 15-month-old daughter, tried Vanilla with strawberries. She seemed pleased with her choice. Scartozzi had heard of the event through a "new moms group."

Tasti D-Lite also incorporates text messaging and social media (Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare) into its business model. Customers, via the Tatsi D-Lite website, can sign up for flavor alerts to be informed when their favorite flavors are "on tap" in Fairfield.

In addition to the TastiRewards loyalty program whereby customers earn one point for each pre-tax dollar spent on qualified Tasti D-Lite products, customers can get additional points by connecting their Tasti acocunt to Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare. The connection allows MyTasti.com to post a message on one's social media page saying you just earned so-and-so points at the Fairfield Tasti D-Lite. Every 50 points earned gets a customer a free medium cup or cone.

In addition to the soft serve frozen treat that can't be defined as ice cream or yogurt, Tasti D-Lite also serves up a Tart n' Tasti frozen yogurt, as well smoothies, shakes, sundaes, cakes and pies. Also, the business will likely have various breakfast treats that complement the product available by winter.

Smith is glad he's no longer commuting between two states and he's confident a Tasti D-Lite in Fairfield will prove as popular as the locations in the big city.

"Tasti D-Lite has a real loyal following, almost like a cult following," he said.