Two L.A. chains break the ice in N.Y.’s frozen-yogurt scene

Two L.A. chains break the ice in N.Y.’s frozen-yogurt scene

NEW YORK Pinkberry [3] and a compatriot concept from South Korea, Red Mango, snap up locations to sell their unusually tart and pricey specialties in New York City. —Manhattan has become a battleground for new-wave frozen-yogurt chains as the Los Angeles-based phenomenon

Pinkberry, whose original store boasts a 1,600-customer-per-day sales record, has a big head start in the New York invasion. The chain, which has 25 California branches, has opened four locations in Manhattan in the past year, and expects to have up to a dozen open by the end of this year to take advantage of strong demand for its tart-tasting treats. —Manhattan has become a battleground for new-wave frozen-yogurt chains as the Los Angeles-based phenomenon

Red Mango is playing catch-up. The company intends to open its first New York unit by the end of October in Manhattan’s Theater District and has signed leases for two more, said Dan Kim, chief executive of Red Mango USA. As a sign of brewing competition, the latest Red Mango lease is for a shop in Greenwich Village [4] directly across from a Pinkberry. —Manhattan has become a battleground for new-wave frozen-yogurt chains as the Los Angeles-based phenomenon

Meanwhile, numerous smaller frozen-yogurt players—including Edgewater, N.J.-based Yolato [5], which has three Manhattan stores and plans for two more, and Flurt, a two-unit yogurt concept launched in August by a Manhattan entrepreneur—are also vying for customers who are willing to fork over more than $6 for their products. —Manhattan has become a battleground for new-wave frozen-yogurt chains as the Los Angeles-based phenomenon

The question, of course, is how long this fad will last. Frozen yogurt was hot in the 1980s, but like many trends it faded as new ones, including treats like Starbucks [6]’ Frappuccino drinks, muscled their way into the indulgence category. Moreover, in New York, growth-minded yogurt chains face record-high prices and stiff competition for top-quality sites from every kind of business from clothing retailers to banks. —Manhattan has become a battleground for new-wave frozen-yogurt chains as the Los Angeles-based phenomenon

“The price of real estate is challenging for everybody,” said Andrew Moger, chief executive of Branded Concept Development, Red Mango’s New York real estate broker. —Manhattan has become a battleground for new-wave frozen-yogurt chains as the Los Angeles-based phenomenon

But for now, yogurt stores are thriving in New York like they are in Los Angeles. Heidi Wynne, a handbag designer in her thirties, said she visits the Pinkberry on the Upper East Side five times a week, sometimes twice a night, for a $5.96 dessert with three toppings. —Manhattan has become a battleground for new-wave frozen-yogurt chains as the Los Angeles-based phenomenon

“I’m hooked,” Wynne said. “I love it. I love the taste. I love the fresh fruit. I just crave it.” —Manhattan has become a battleground for new-wave frozen-yogurt chains as the Los Angeles-based phenomenon

Her only gripe is that the lines can be “long and exhausting.” —Manhattan has become a battleground for new-wave frozen-yogurt chains as the Los Angeles-based phenomenon

Dane Morrissey, area director for Pinkberry’s New York franchisee, 4sunkids Inc., said the company is making operational changes to meet high demand, including adding more staff and tweaking store layouts to improve traffic flow. The Pinkberrys do all their production at each location. The core concept is simple: two flavors, plain and green tea, with a range of toppings from fresh-cut fruit to cereal like Cap’n Crunch. —Manhattan has become a battleground for new-wave frozen-yogurt chains as the Los Angeles-based phenomenon

The franchisee is already looking for larger New York spaces than at first, ideally 1,000 square feet, versus the initial target of 600 square feet to 800 square feet. —Manhattan has become a battleground for new-wave frozen-yogurt chains as the Los Angeles-based phenomenon

“Our original footprint was too tight for what we wanted to do,” Morrissey said. —Manhattan has become a battleground for new-wave frozen-yogurt chains as the Los Angeles-based phenomenon

Pinkberry’s goal is to open 24 units in New York by the end of 2008, said Morrissey, a veteran of Così [7], the fast-casual sandwich chain. New locations include one near Columbia University, and two in high-density residential neighborhoods. —Manhattan has become a battleground for new-wave frozen-yogurt chains as the Los Angeles-based phenomenon

“We want to be very careful where our storefronts are so they can be seen readily,” he said. —Manhattan has become a battleground for new-wave frozen-yogurt chains as the Los Angeles-based phenomenon

So far, marketing is via word-of-mouth. —Manhattan has become a battleground for new-wave frozen-yogurt chains as the Los Angeles-based phenomenon

Morrissey declined to discuss sales of the privately held company, but said business is on par with Los Angeles and doing “exceedingly well.” Pinkberry’s original location in West Hollywood, Calif., reportedly attracts up to 1,600 customers daily. The first New York Pinkberry, near the Empire State Building, opened last fall and is the busiest in the chain, he said. —Manhattan has become a battleground for new-wave frozen-yogurt chains as the Los Angeles-based phenomenon

Pinkberry’s original shop opened in 2004. The company’s rapid growth to 25 California locations has inspired bigger growth plans. Morrissey said 4sunkids plans to eventually open Pinkberry shops in malls, and then in business-and-institution settings. —Manhattan has become a battleground for new-wave frozen-yogurt chains as the Los Angeles-based phenomenon

Red Mango opened its first location in South Korea in 2003 and established its U.S. subsidiary last year. The first U.S. location opened in Los Angeles this July, followed by a branch in Las Vegas. Because of high-priced New York real estate, Moger said, Red Mango is going to take a measured approach to opening stores in the market. —Manhattan has become a battleground for new-wave frozen-yogurt chains as the Los Angeles-based phenomenon

The yogurt chains have a lot in common. Both are positioned as purveyors of health-oriented treats, and both have stores with sleek designs intended to be inviting places to visit rather than mere scoop shops. Both products contain yogurt and are made without preservatives. —Manhattan has become a battleground for new-wave frozen-yogurt chains as the Los Angeles-based phenomenon

That a war is brewing may be reflected in claims about how much live yogurt culture is in the various purveyors’ products. A lawsuit filed against Pinkberry in California last May raised questions about whether its product can be called frozen yogurt according to regulations of California’s state Department of Food and Agriculture. A test conducted for the Los Angeles Times showed that the yogurt did contain live cultures. The case is still pending, a Pinkberry spokeswoman said. —Manhattan has become a battleground for new-wave frozen-yogurt chains as the Los Angeles-based phenomenon

In August, Red Mango trumpeted the fact that it was the first “natural frozen-yogurt retailer” to receive approval from the National Yogurt Association to use its “Live and Active Culture Seal.” —Manhattan has become a battleground for new-wave frozen-yogurt chains as the Los Angeles-based phenomenon

Red Mango’s Kim is eager to expand in New York. —Manhattan has become a battleground for new-wave frozen-yogurt chains as the Los Angeles-based phenomenon

“I really didn’t look at the New York market as quickly as I should have,” he said. —Manhattan has become a battleground for new-wave frozen-yogurt chains as the Los Angeles-based phenomenon