By DANIELLE TEPPER
Pizza counters, costume jewelers, cupcake shops, burgers joints: Red Bank seems to have become a magnet for like-minded business ideas in recent years, with new industry entrants arriving in clusters.
The latest wave: frozen yogurt.
While this may be good news for locals with a hankering for lo-cal frozen desserts, it raises the question of whether or not three yogurt shops can do well for themselves within the same neighborhood.
redbankgreen visited the owners of Frozsürt, which at two years old is Red Bank’s most established; Kravings, which opened in February; and three-week-old Yo Mon to discuss their products and business predictions for the season.
What was it about yogurt that made you want to go into the business?
Frozsürt, Danny Natale: Its natural and healthy.
Kravings, Jill Pecoraro: A year and a half ago, I went down to Florida to visit my daughter at school and she said, Mom, you need to try this self-serve frozen yogurt store. The rest is history.
Yo Mon, Jennifer Mann: We basically first came upon the yogurt industry on a trip to New York. Everybodys store seemed to have the same motif, which was white walls, green furniture, very sterile environments, which was why Yo Mon was created and went in completely the opposite direction. We wanted to be fun, hip, a place where kids could lounge. For kids that dont do coffee and whatnot and want a place to hang out with their friends, this was a cool environment to do that.
Did you realize there was about to be a wave of yogurt stores opening at the time?
Natale: Not in the same area, but I knew it was a trend. I didnt think one would open right around the block, that was so far away from my thoughts. I figured maybe a different town.
Pecoraro: No. At the time I decided to open a store here in Red Bank, there were no other self-serve frozen yogurt stores in this area.
Mann: We have another location in Freehold and we were the first ones out there. I think when people saw the business, thats what brought about the other stores. I think in a lot of ways, we spurred the trend in this area. A lot of people in Monmouth County go to the Freehold Mall and were right outside the mall on Main Street, so it was no coincidence that after we opened, a lot of people suddenly started popping up. I think the only one in existence before us was Frozsürtt. Lets Yo [a chain with stores in Middletown and Shrewsbury] came in after us. Id like to think we were one of the first self-serves in Monmouth County.
What do you think of all the yogurt stores opening/competing in such close proximity in Red Bank and surrounding towns?
Natale: I think its silly, very silly. I can testify that for this location, its not a big moneymaker. I dont know if they expect to make a million dollars, but it should bring down their expectations a lot.
Pecoraro: There’s always competition in any business that you open. I strive to put a quality product out there and stay ahead of the curve.
Mann: I think everybodys product is unique. I think we do things a bit differently here and you know, I think theres enough of a market for everybody. Well just have to see how it works out. Were fairly confident in our product. We have close to 6,000 likes on our Facebook page; we have a huge following for us.
Is your product healthy? Does it offer options to vegans and those with limitations, such as lactose-intolerance, and allergies to nuts/chocolate?
Natale: It has probiotics and protein. We blend it. Theres less calories. We offer nonfat and sugar-free.
Pecoraro: Yogurt is a healthy alternative to ice cream. There are only 100 calories per 3.1 ounces of yogurt. The yogurt contains high levels of live and active yogurt cultures. Yogurt provides friendly bacteria for your digestive tract that can help support the proper functioning of the digestive system. As for the sugar content, some yogurt has no sugar and some has little. Yogurt is also low in sodium and cholesterol. Our yogurt is made with all natural flavors and no artificial colors. We do carry a variety of gluten-free yogurts. As for people with nut allergies, our nut selection is closely supervised as we know how serious nut allergies are. There is no cross- contamination. We do carry sorbets which are dairy-free but as of this time we do not carry vegan yogurt. All of our yogurt is OU-D Kosher Certified.
Mann: We have fat-free, a whole litany of no sugar added for diabetics, and a vegan sorbet. We have no sugar added syrups and were working on toppings next.
Can three yogurt stores all survive in Red Bank?
Natale: Its doubtful. Were thinking of starting crepes and pastries to bring people in. [Frozsürt is now selling crepes.]
Pecoraro: I would like to think that it would be possible for all three to stay in business, since we all have our own identity. Variety is what makes the world go around.
Mann: If they have a good product. I know whats worked for us and weve survived around other yogurt stores. Whether theyll survive around us, I dont know. I dont have a crystal ball and Im not going to make that prediction. Well just have to see.
6 Monmouth Street
Owned by Danny Natale and Aurellio Ramos
90 Broad Street
Owned by Jill Pecoraro
Maple Avenue and West Front Street in City Centre Plaza
Owned by Jennifer and Michael Mann