The two single doors at either end of the Froyo World in New Haven at 46 High St., next to the Yale Center for British Art, were in constant movement this past Tuesday as customers filed in to fill their cups with cold and delicious Froyo.
Perhaps it was the unseasonably warm weather – temperatures were climbing into the high 70s – but a passerby would think this self-serve frozen yogurt lounge was giving something away.
Owner William Bok said regardless of weather, Froyo World is usually busy – dessert lovers know no season, he said.
Soon suburbanites, including those here in Branford, will be able to have Froyo in their backyard as the company begins to franchise throughout the Northeast, Bok said.
A Branford resident for the past three years – Bok hails from Glastonbury – Froyoworld started as a full-service frozen yogurt business, YoCup, in San Francisco back in the mid-2000s.
“There wasn’t really any yogurts out there at the time,” said Bok, of the short-lived venture he and his cousin Meinoh Kim of San Francisco launched.
A graduate of Uconn with degrees in history and business, Bok said he decided at age 23, after graduating school, that he was “out of here.” He added, “I kind of wanted to experience something else.”
He and Kim launched YoCup and ran the business for about two years before selling their interests – Kim still lives in San Francisco and is the creator of a baby product line, Meeno Babies; YoCup is still in business under new ownership.
Coming back to Connecticut, Bok said he helped his parents, then the owners of , and ran the business for nearly two years before opening the first Froyo World in New Haven in August 2010 with wife Susan Bok and brother Dennis Bok.
Of his stint in the dry cleaning business, Bok said, “I liked it because I got to know tons of people in Branford.”
Noticing there was a void in the frozen yogurt business here in Connecticut and in the Northeast, Bok said he seized the opportunity. When asked how Froyo World would be successful where other frozen yogurt businesses like TCBY failed around New England, he said, “There’s always trends but this is better because customers love customizing their cup. That’s what’s a big hit.”
And he just might be right.
Amidst droves of people pouring in and out of Froyo World – the majority of them college students presumably from Yale University – a tiny voice called, “Mommy look! I did it myself.”
A child clutched her cup of Froyo piled high with toppings that she had selected herself from the more than 45 offerings; suddenly, buying this cold treat on a hot afternoon became more than just a snack – it was an experience.
People love the self-serve aspect of Froyo, said Bok, right from pulling the lever of their choice of Froyo to selecting which fresh fruit will pair best with it. “People just love doing it themselves,” he commented.
The idea, though not unique to Froyo, was developed by Bok, he said, when he realized that customers were unhappy with paying a lot for toppings at YoCup, a full-service business, when they might just want taste of something rather than heaping spoonful. At Froyo World, Bok said the customers decide how much they want to put on their cup and then they pay by the ounce. At 49 cents an ounce, diners be warned: Froyo can get expensive, especially for the heavy-handed scooper.
As the trend toward frozen yogurt grows in Connecticut, Bok maintains that Froyo World will be top dog.
“We’ll be a leader in frozen yogurt,” he said. “We’ll be the first ones here and the last ones to leave.”
What sets him apart from the other franchises and mom and pop copycats, Bok said, is their unique and delicious Froyo. Hailing from Greek yogurt roots with a bit of tang and just enough sweet, Froyo does have a unique flavor unparalleled by a traditional frozen yogurt. Offerings like cake batter, original tart and even sorbet and sugar-free flavors are what Bok believes will keep Froyo World from becoming just another short-lived trend.
Currently there about 15 to 20 stores set to open in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts during the spring and summer; there’s also a franchise who runs one Froyo World in San Juan, Puerto Rico and plans to open five more in the future. Bok said about four to five stores would be corporate owned with the flagship store remaining as the 800-square-foot facility in New Haven, which started it all.
Branford’s location has not been disclosed at the time but it will be owned by a franchise and will be approximately 1,200 to 1,300 square-feet and offer 12 flavors of Froyo.
Slated next to open is the Hamden location at 2100 Dixwell Ave.; shortly after, the North Haven location at 300 Universal Dr., and the Cheshire location at 191 Highland Ave., is due to open.
Check their website for upcoming store openings in towns across Connecticut including Southbury, Westport, West Hartford and Mystic.
Bok said there are big plans to launch 50 stores in the next year. If you’re interested in becoming a franchise, head over to their website to learn more. “You’ve got to catch the wave while it’s small,” said Bok.
Of course for those of you just excited about eating the frozen treat, learning to love the Froyo Guy and embracing the culture of a frozen yogurt lounge, you can get a taste of the businesses before they open by checking out their Facebook pages. The following sites are live now:
Most Popular Froyo in New Haven
Most Refreshing Froyo
Original Tart Froyo
Fruity Pebbles cereal
Mochi (Japanese rice cake)
William Bok’s Favorite
Cake Batter Froyo
Mochi (Japanese rice cake)
Cherry (on top)