Boulder, known for its entrepreneurial opportunities, is seeing one particular market evolving: frozen yogurt.
Frozen yogurt is not new to the Boulder community, but with new locations opening up and old locations changing their business models like the ones featured on the best business simulation game, the scene is changing.
Moving away from the franchise model
One familiar Boulder frozen yogurt shop, Cefiore, has recently undergone a major business model change. It broke away from the franchise model and became its own shop: Smooch.
Owner Michelle Luu and her husband recently decided that the freedom of being able to make their own decisions about meeting their customers’ needs would ultimately be beneficial.
“[Being a franchise] was a great launching pad for us,” Luu said. “But now that we’ve kind of grown throughout the years, it’s just time for us to do our own thing and be able to better cater to our customers’ palates and bring in some new products.”
One new product that Luu has incorporated into Smooch is a small granola bar, where customers can mix granola with their frozen yogurt treats.
Smooch originally opened in August 2008 as Cefiore (located on 14th Street, off of Pearl Street). Luu said the typical Smooch customers are local businessmen during the daytime and people who frequent Pearl for dinner at night.
“We’re located right in downtown so we get a lot of late-night, after-dinner crowds, and we also get the people who work in downtown during the daytime,” Luu said.
Smooch isn’t a self-serve model because customer service is at the forefront of the business model, she said.
“I believe in bringing in really high-quality products for our people and kind of creating a space where people can come in and enjoy themselves,” Luu said. “I really value high customer service.”
Having a good experience and the opportunity to try new things is what prompted Luu to bring the 21 flavors of mochi ice cream to her store.
Mochi is ice cream covered in a rice confection, and Luu said the response to the treat has been excellent.
“We thought since the mochi topping does really well, it’s one of our best sellers, that maybe if we bring this in people will have a positive response to it,” she said. “It’s been really great.”
Luu said Smooch’s approach is unique in that all its yogurt is checked through a third-party company, The Live Active Culture Association, which looks for a certified amount of live active cultures and real dairy in the shop’s homemade yogurt.
With new frozen yogurt shops with a different approach to service opening up around Boulder, Luu said she is not worried about business, but is curious to see how the trends will continue.
“Bigger-name yogurt shops may be coming to Boulder,” she said. “It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.”
Remaining steadfast in an old business model
Maiberry Frozen Yogurt will have its two-year anniversary this coming April, said owner Trang Mai. While it began as its own entity, it now has become a franchise.
Mai said Maiberry’s business philosophy is one that centers on affordable treats while supporting the local community.
“We’re all about making the best-tasting product at the healthiest and most affordable price,” she said. “‘Fresh, Healthy, & Delicious’ is our slogan.”
Mai said she thinks that although her Boulder shop is not self-serve, the new approach to frozen yogurt is effective and has implemented it in Maiberry franchise shops in other locations.
“I think it is a great concept,” she said. “Our other shops in Denver and Fort Collins also does [sic] self-serve frozen yogurt.”
Mai said there is always a concern about business with new shops opening up in the area, but that more awareness about a product can only boost business.
“Well of course we’re always concerned about our business,” she said. “But I think additional froyo shops are good for everyone because it creates more of an awareness and a buzz in the community and in turn people become more educated with the product.”
Mai also said she thinks that, with an increased awareness, the Boulder community will only continue to frequent her shop.
“When people become aware of the froyo trend they will come to appreciate our product even more because we’re one of the very few in the industry and the only one locally that actually use Greek-style yogurt in our frozen yogurt,” she said.
New kids on the block
David Humphrey and Jamie Gardner, married for four years, “practically newlyweds,” as they call themselves, are the owners of the newest frozen yogurt shop in Boulder: Ripple.
Gardner said she’s wanted to open up a frozen yogurt shop in both North and South Boulder for years.
“I had really imagined opening up a yogurt candy store in south Boulder and another one in North Boulder and calling them ‘SoBo FroYo’ and ‘NoBo FroYo,’” she said.
After spending some time in Los Angeles in 2009, an area saturated in frozen yogurt shops, Humphrey said he returned with a better understanding of the various business models.
“When we went out there, Pinkberry was dying, YogurtLand was thriving, and it became very clear that self-serve was the dominant model out there,” he said.
Gardner and Humphrey said they looked into joining a franchise, but decided instead to create their own shop in Boulder, one that would take a self-serve approach.
“It’s about the freedom of doing what we want to,” Humphrey said. “Which is a lot more fun than taking orders from a mother ship. We looked at a franchise briefly and we realized, this isn’t going to be fun.”
With 35 frozen yogurt flavors, candy and fruit toppings, as well as an in-house bakery, customers walk around purple-tiled walls and help themselves. Their desserts are ultimately charged at 44 cents per ounce.
Humphrey said that historically, the self-serve frozen yogurt model has been less expensive than an attendant making an order.
“[Self-serve] is 40 percent less expensive; it has to do with volume,” he said.
Humphrey said their business philosophy centers around environmental and social sustainability, as well as buying locally.
“Where we get the product is locally,” he said. “That’s very important to us. It’s from Boulder Ice Cream and it’s all natural, which we feel really strongly about.”
Gardner said the response from the Boulder community has been overwhelmingly positive, even with having done practically no marketing.
“People love the local piece, they love that we’re local, that we’re not a big franchise, that we’re addressing the gluten-free, that we have one dairy-free option,” she said. “People just have been really supportive and excited for us. It’s been really remarkable.”
Being the newest frozen yogurt stop in the Boulder community, and even with their steady success, Humphrey said the market isn’t guaranteed to remain the same.
“It’s going to be very competitive in this market, there’s going to be a lot of self-serves coming up,” he said. “We’re going to have at least three self-serves, maybe four, coming up this summer, and I think… obviously Pinkberry’s been shopping around too. So we’ll see.”
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