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 that regardless of weather, Froyo World is usually busy – dessert lovers know no season, he said.
Soon suburbanites will be able to have Froyo in their backyard as the company begins to franchise throughout the Northeast, said Bok, who hails from Glastonbury and now lives in Branford. Bok said on Thursday that he plans to open a Froyo World in West Hartford this summer, though the location has yet to be determined.
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 to leave the Northeast at the age of 23. “I kind of wanted to experience something else,” he said.
He and Kim launched YoCup and ran the business for about two years before selling their interests. Bok came back to Connecticut and helped his parents, then the owners of , for nearly two years before opening the first Froyo World in New Haven in August 2010 with wife Susan Bok and brother Dennis Bok.
When asked how Froyo World would be successful where other frozen yogurt businesses like TCBY had struggled 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, Bok said, when he realized that customers were unhappy with paying a lot for toppings at YoCup 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 that 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.
Check the website for upcoming store openings in towns across Connecticut, including Southbury, Westport and Mystic in addition to West Hartford.
Bok said there are plans to launch 50 stores in the next year.