Dessert war turns icy

The owners of FroyoWorld have accused soon-to-open froyo lounge Flavors of copying their logo design and color scheme.
The owners of FroyoWorld have accused soon-to-open froyo lounge Flavors of copying their logo design and color scheme. Photo by Sara Stalla.

The froyo cold war has taken an icy turn.

As recently as two weeks ago, the city’s downtown dessert establishments were preaching the benefits of peaceful coexistence, but since then, relations have chilled and deteriorated.

Even before its opening on York Street this weekend, Flavors — a new self-serve frozen yogurt lounge — has become enmeshed in allegations from its anticipated rival and fellow frozen yogurt store, FroyoWorld. William Bok, 27, co-owner of FroyoWorld, claims that the Flavors owners are close family friends and used that relationship to steal ideas for their own frozen yogurt business. Flavors owner Heela Kim denies those claims and says that having always dreamed of opening a froyo store, she developed her business ideas independently.

Bok’s allegations include a claim that a member of the family owners of Flavors physically entered the FroyoWorld offices and copied parts of the store’s logo design and color schemes.

“We are very disheartened by the fact that a family friend for over a decade has opened a frozen yogurt lounge literally in our backyard,” said Bok. “It’s betrayal.”

BETRAYAL AMONG FRIENDS

Bok knew for some time that a new froyo place was going to open near his, but it wasn’t until a reporter from the News mentioned that it was the Kim family who was opening Flavors that he knew the names of the new proprietors, he said. And when he heard the name, a red alert went off. Stating that the two families were close friends, he added that the Kims even attended his and his wife’s wedding and that he would not have such strong feelings had he not known the new business owners.

The Boks’ allegations against the Kims extend well beyond a little business competition between friends to alleged copying of their business logo and color schemes. Both stores feature smiley faces as their logos, and use pink and green in their general marketing schemes. Bok said that he believes the Kims stole the proprietary information from FroyoWorld when he opened his home to the Kim family on numerous occasions. He added that the Kims’ daughter, Hwanee “Rachael” Kim, has been at his house “more times than he can remember.”

“This goes against what friendship stands for and we can clearly see how through their statements, the Kim family is trying to hide the truth,” Bok said.

The Kims deny that they stole any ideas. Sean Kim, the son of Flavors’ owner who also interned as a business analyst for McKinsey, said he helped design Flavors by choosing the colors that he said “popped the most.” He added that he has never been to FroyoWorld. His sister, Rachael Kim, said it is impossible that Flavors used the same colors as FroyoWorld because of the variety of colors, shades and combinations to choose from.

While Sean’s parents and sister confirmed that he had never been FroyoWorld, they admitted that they had been to FroyoWorld a few times in the past. However, Rachel Kim said they had no reason to imitate FroyoWorld. She said her mother, Heela Kim, went to Yo-Cream University — a two-day conference that teaches how to start a frozen yogurt business — before starting Flavors.

“I don’t know what kinds of information we could have taken [from them],” she said.

The Kims also deny the close friendship and said they are only acquaintances through the Korean community. Rachael Kim, the daughter of Flavors owner Heela Kim, said she was “100 percent sure” that her parents did not consider the Boks’ parents to be close friends.

“Their parents invited my parents out of respect [to the wedding] and a lot of people went who weren’t very close [to them],” she said.

Three sources who know the families confirmed to the News the Boks’ claim that the two families had been close. One source said the Boks only invited close family friends to the wedding.

Despite the controversy, the Kims said they maintain their hope that Flavors and FroyoWorld will be able to peacefully coexist, adding that the competition between two froyo stores is nothing compared to that among the multiple coffee shops around campus. Heela Kim said if she hadn’t opened Flavors, she believes that someone else would have opened another frozen yogurt store. She added that she hopes her store will give Yalies and New Haveners more choices, more convenience and a different taste.

A FUTURE RIDDLED WITH UNCERTAINTY

Looking forward, Bok said he has new menu items planned for FroyoWorld and emphasized that the store will continue to be a part of the Yale and New Haven community.

“There are and will be many imitators opening frozen yogurt lounges in Connecticut, but we believe FroyoWorld will continue to be the trendsetter and leader in the state,” he said.

The frozen dessert wars are nothing new in New Haven. Former Liberry owner, current owner of S’Wings and co-founder of the Little Salad Shop Robert Klinger said that there have been a number of ice cream and frozen yogurt stores that have opened over the years with little success. Chapel Sweet Shoppe closed several years ago, Cold Stone Creamery closed in the end of 2008 and Liberry closed in 2010 following FroyoWorld’s grand opening. Klinger said that of the frozen yogurt stores, FroyoWorld has the better location because Chapel Street gets foot traffic all year. He added that although Liberry’s sales went down 90 percent after FroyoWorld opened, in the end, he was happy he was able to focus on new businesses.

“I’m happy for them all, and I wish them all luck,” he said.

Abigail Rider, the associate vice president and director of University Properties, said that the ensuing competition that Flavors presents is hardly surprising.

“Success breeds competition,” she said in an email Monday. “It is not surprising that others would want to compete with [Ashley’s and Froyoworld].”

At least one dessert spot is living the ideal of peaceful coexistence. The Mochi Store owner Harrison Robbins-Pesce said in an email Sunday that although his store sells frozen desserts, The Mochi Store is largely removed from the competition because he offers a unique product. He added that although it is hard to imagine that there will be three frozen dessert stores within five to 10 minutes of each other, it still might work out.

“You never know, maybe there’s enough ice cream for everyone,” he said.

Flavors will open on 290 York St.

Comments

  • cyalie

    ouch.

  • will_i_am

    waa-waa! my cousin stole my bike when i was 9, maybe i’ll whine about it to YDN…all these froyo shops will be closed in a couple of years anyway just like before

  • sonofmory

    i think your timeline might be a little off…i graduated in 1999 and Ashley’s was already open on York Street when i arrived as a freshman. fact check!

    • TobacXela

      Ashley’s was not located on York in 1995. It was located on College St.

  • sjbj

    Ashley’s wasn’t on York in 1999. There was a crepe place there until at least Dec 2000. Know b/c my husband and I had our 2nd date at the crepe place (forgetting the name) and we met in Dec 2000. Ashley’s was in other location(s?) before York St. On College near George, for one.

  • Mb

    A bike is a little different than a family friend who stole your business idea. This is disgusting truly. I know the Boks and what a hard working family they are. Only close friends were invited to the wedding but they can say whatever helps them sleep at night. They should be ashamed of themselves. I don’t care who you are, if this happened to anyone they would be furious.

  • Anym

    There were two Ashley locations in New Haven at one point. One on York Street, and another near the med school. I don’t remember when that location closed, but University Properties (or whatever it was known as then) kicked Ashley’s out of their York Street location and replaced it with that short-lived crepe place. When that place closed, Ashley’s came back.

    One can’t have too much sympathy for FroyoWorld. A self-serve yogurt place isn’t exactly an original business concept, and remember that they came to New Haven and opened a shop on the same street where another existing yogurt shop was located. They did the same thing in Providence with their second store, opening near Brown on the same street as another Korean-run yogurt place. Do they expect to have a monopoly on predatory business behavior?

  • Mb

    Point of the story is that they were friends. Friends don’t open stores behind their backs and in their back yards. They werent friends with any of the yogurt places they opened next to and they would never do that.

  • gbanks

    I beg to differ. I am a licensee and the owner of Froyoworld Brown. I am not Korean, I do not know the family that owned Juniper. It was in my sole discretion to open on Thayer Street. I was a guest at the Wedding and I remember seeing “Hwanee” and her parents. Its a shame what greed will do to people.

  • gbanks

    May I add, It was a pleasure being consulted by the owners of Froyoworld to allow me to open in Providence. From the start I was treated with the highest level of respect and professionalism. It was Truly a pleasure to deal with. I can only provide kind words to the Boks and wish them continued success!

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