Inspired by the create-your-own focus of the ubiquitous salad bar, and following the popularity of frozen yogurt chains like Pinkberry (will we ever get one?), Red Mango, and Tasti D-Lite, John Mallon and his business partner Randy Carmody opened Freeziac, a self-service frozen yogurt shop that focuses on daily-changing fresh fruit toppings and aims to offer all the comforts of the familiar "coffee shop environment."
Freeziac now has stores in Eden Prairie, Plymouth, and at the Mall of America, but Mallon told us they will be expanding to Maple Grove in April, Burnsville in May, and are negotiating a sixth location yet to be named. In between store openings, taste testings, and checking to make sure that no crushed Heath bar dust has spilled over into the neighboring container of granola, we chatted with Freeziac's co-owner John Mallon about the seemingly sudden abundance of fro-yo shops and why it's so great to own one.
1. Between Chilly Billy's, Yogurt Lab, Freestyle Yogurt, Tutti Frutti, and Menchie's all recently opening in and around the Twin Cities, it seems like there's a real boom in the frozen yogurt business. Why do you think it's returning? Or did it never really go away?
It never went fully away. Remember the yogurt at Dayton's/Marshall Fields/Macy's? What's making this sort of a new boom is the self-service style. It's an experience for the guest, and it's a labor model that works for the business. There's also a trend toward healthier foods, which explains the rise in popularity of frozen yogurt versus ice cream. So what you're seeing today is the just the new neighborhood ice cream store.
2. What does Freeziac aim for and offer in terms of customer experience? How is it different?
We're striving to offer a comfortable place where you can hang out and meet your friends and family, as opposed to the cold, marble tabletops and uncomfortable "ice cream" chairs or the environment you'd find at more grab 'n' go places. We offer music, Wi-Fi, comfortable chairs, and art, but one of the things that sets us apart from the others is that we were first in the area, we're Minnesota-based, and we're not a franchise.
3. Who develops your flavors? Can you talk a little bit about that process?
We buy the frozen product and then add flavors that we buy from companies who also supply ice cream manufacturers, and there are hundreds of flavors. We bring in samples of new flavors and mix them with either the vanilla base for sweet styles or with the tart base for the tart flavors. Our newest flavors are Root Beer Float, which is a sweet style, and Watermelon, which is a tart style.
4. Do you have a favorite?
I like the Pomegranate, a tart style, which is especially good with fresh fruit, and I like the Root Beer Float. We recently tried the root beer flavor, and everyone said that it tasted like a root beer float, so my daughter suggested we just call it that. You'll notice that no other shops work harder than us when it comes to providing abundant, fresh fruit. We usually are able to offer eight different fresh fruits options.
5. Frozen yogurt is relatively healthy, but if you're going to really go off the deep end and indulge, what treat do you tend to go for?
Well, every once and awhile I have a hot fudge sundae. We have a great hot fudge that we keep warm enough so it's saucy, but not so hot as to melt your yogurt. I make mine with the vanilla yogurt, then hot fudge, sliced bananas, and I top it off with whipped cream and cashews. You won't find other shops offering cashews because they are so expensive, but I love them. That's one of the advantages of having your own business!