Except for a brief stint last autumn as the fictional , 13 South Main Street has, for many of us, been synonymous with a family-friendly restaurant that specialized in serving tasty dairy treats.
Decades ago, it was The Farm Shop and when that closed Friendly’s moved in. Friendly’s closed last year and, ever since, the darkened storefront has stood out in the otherwise thriving and bustling Center.
It appears that the tradition of cold and creamy desserts will live on in that space as Sweet Frog Frozen Yogurt has announced that it will opening there by the end of this year. This will be the second Connecticut location for the Richmond, Virginia-based franchiser that is expanding, as its website states, “by leaps and bounds (or hops)."
Sweet Frog was founded in 2009 by Derek Cha and his wife, Annah Kim, with the mission of providing high quality, all natural, self-serve frozen yogurt in a cheerful environment that would appeal to customers of all ages. From their first yogurt shop in Richmond, they have expanded the business into 100 franchises in fifteen states.
According to Franchise Sales Director Raven Williams, 100 more are planned to open by the end of this year.
On a sunny afternoon this week, franchise owner Scott Campbell was manning the register at the Sweet Frog on Hebron Avenue in Glastonbury he opened four months ago, as mothers and their children filled their cups with yogurt and toppings. Campbell says that since the doors opened on May 18, there has been a steady flow of customers from the very young to senior citizens.
He had been looking for a space in West Hartford for his second franchise, finally landing on the South Main Street location. He notes that the West Hartford location will be larger in square footage than most Sweet Frogs, allowing for more seating.
There will be outdoor seating during the summer months but the larger interior will also encourage customers to enjoy their frozen yogurt during the cold winter months. In fact, the interior will have a working fireplace and, unique to the West Hartford location, free Wi-Fi, says Campbell.
Campbell says that choosing West Hartford for his second franchise location was an easy decision, based partially on the success he has had in Glastonbury. “We really feel that Glastonbury is a microcosm of what West Hartford is as far as foot traffic and accommodation of vehicle traffic. It just seems like such a great place because if you live on the east side of the river or the west side of the river, West Hartford is really the melting pot where people come to meet family and friends. That’s the perfect environment for our product, we believe.”
When asked if he was concerned about being located in near proximity to a popular, high profile competitor already established in Blue Back Square, Campbell is confident that Sweet Frog’s business model is uniquely different to attract customers.
"Unlike our competitor, the way we serve it is a self-serve fashion. The way you do it is you grab your own cup and you get exactly what and how much you want and exactly what you want for toppings. The price is determined by weight. If you want 100 hundred raspberries, you can have them.”
Back at the corporate office, Williams discusses the founders’ vision for their yogurt. “They always intended for it to be creamy and thick but still low in fat. The flavors are created from proprietary recipes that we create in-house that are unique to Sweet Frog.”
Campbell agrees. “Our flavors aren’t just something that you pour in the back and serve. We actually do our own mixing and our own flavor enhancing here. So you might be able to go to a competitor and get their strawberry yogurt, you will not be able to get our strawberry yogurt. If you like our flavors you have to come to us for that. We think that is unique."
The interiors of Sweet Frog stores are consistent and always a cheery explosion of pink and apple green. Frogs, of course, line the walls on shelves and on company signs. Dark wood floors, modern chandeliers, a fireplace and a large chalkboard for anyone to scribble on make for an inviting visit, especially for little ones.
Sweet Frog’s menu of flavors runs the gamut from the simple classics like vanilla and chocolate to the more unusual Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, Thin Mint Cookies, Dulce De Leche, Angel Food Cake, Bubble Gum, Cinnamon Roll, Carrot Cake, and Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses. The company produces 70 flavors and most are either low fat or non-fat.
Over 60 toppings will be offered including fresh fruit, various candies and cereals. There are usually 16 flavors of yogurt offered in the stores at any one time but, Campbell says, the West Hartford store will be a flagship spot with 20 selections. “We will always have the standards but there will be some that are on a rotation basis – usually with the season. At Christmas time we might have a peppermint stick and eggnog. We have apple pie and pumpkin spice for fall.”
Campbell says that he is shooting for the late fall/early winter opening. “There’s a lot of variables when it comes to construction. We believe that we can be open before the end of the year, though,” he states hopefully.