Throw down the red carpet, turn up the klieg lights and ready yourself for a little bit of Hollywood coming to next week.
Pinkberry, the Los Angeles-based upscale frozen yogurt franchise that has over 150 stores worldwide, is opening its second Connecticut location on Thursday, Oct. 6. Located in the former Origins site, near and across from , Blue Back’s latest tenant will introduce the greater Hartford area to the addictively tart, refreshing dessert. Pinkberry has gained a groupie-like following which sometimes refers to it as “Crackberry.”
Founded in 2005 by Korean-Americans Hye Kyung Hwang and Young Lee, the first store was located in an unassuming storefront in West Hollywood. Offering only two flavors, original and green tea, word spread quickly about the frozen yogurt’s unique, tart flavor and the irresistible toppings and mix-ins that were offered.
People were soon driving from great distances and standing in line for half an hour to get their fix of the unique frozen dessert. Parking tickets abounded as customers double-parked in front of the little shop, leading many to dub the cold treat, “the taste that launched 1,000 parking tickets.”
In 2007, the company was bought by Maveron, the venture fund started by Starbuck's founder Howard Schultz and, since then, Pinkberry has expanded across the nation, now including 14 stores in New York City and a half dozen in New England. Internationally, the chain has grown to include locations in London, Russia, Canada, Mexico, Peru, and the Middle East. It has gained such notoriety that it has been featured on various news segments and in a major plotline this season of the popular HBO television show “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
With the grand opening looming, final preparations were being made to the West Hartford store. The company’s store interiors are standardized, and Blue Back’s cozy shop will reflect this with modern Philippe Starck metal furniture and overhead lighting by Le Klint. The walls are painted pastel and the floor is lined with gray and black natural pebbles. The company’s iconic green and pink sign was to be hung outside by the end of this week.
J.J. Smith, Director of Operations for New England, has been putting in countless hours to assure that the opening goes smoothly.
When asked what is it that makes Pinkberry so different from other brands, Smith harked back to the first time he had a bite of the frozen dessert. “The first time I had Pinkberry, it was very crisp and refreshing. It didn’t leave that film on the roof of your mouth the way some ice creams do. People said it’s addictive but I really didn’t get it and then, later, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I had to have more.”
Smith was not free to divulge the company’s unique recipe, but did allow that it contains “a proprietary blend of non-fat milk and non-fat yogurt.”
Over the years, the menu has expanded to add four flavors to the sweet and tangy original and green tea. West Hartford customers will be able to choose from six flavors: coconut, chocolate, original, peanut butter, pomegranate, and watermelon.
But, the fun does not stop at just the yogurt. Customers can personalize their cup of the creamy stuff with delicious and unique toppings ranging from fresh strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, mango, shaved milk chocolate, yogurt chips, gummy bears, Captain Crunch, and granola.
Smith notes, “It is really up to the customer to create their own Pinkberry. It is their vision, their flavor.”
And, lest the health and weight-conscious feel that they might have to detour around the spot, Smith assures that his little bowls of delectable delight are nothing to fear. “You can have a small original flavored cup for about 100 calories because of the non-fat milk and yogurt used in the recipe. It is a healthy option for a dessert treat.”
The addition of mix-ins and toppings will add calories, sugar, and fat, but Smith goes on to emphasize that they are selected with the highest quality standards, such as Grade-A fresh fruit that is hand-cut in the store daily; organic gummy bears with no high fructose syrup; all-natural honey almond granola; and premium Belgian milk chocolate shavings.
Pinkberry will also be offering Pinkberry Take Home, 25 ounces of Pinkberry, swirled-to-order and packed on ice for transport to your home freezer. There will also be fruit parfaits, smoothies and fresh fruit bowls available in store all day.
The lines to get into the store may be expected to be long next week but Smith is confident that people will find the wait worthwhile. “A lot of people, when they hear ‘frozen yogurt,’ they think soft serve ice cream. We have a really unique flavor profile that attracts many customers. It keeps bringing them back.”
The store will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. For more information about Pinkberry, go to their website.