GRAVER: Froyo capitalism

Gravely Mistaken

Yale students love their frozen yogurt. The fact that Pinkberry is set to open its doors on April 11, joining the already three froyo spots in walking distance from campus, is a testament to the delicious, rich, chemically-cake-batter-tasting treat — and capitalism.

harry_graver_headshot_kat_oshmanThis column has taken issue in the past with the consequences of a lack of choice to culinary options in New Haven, but largely to no avail. This Saturday, Box 63 once more decided to asphyxiate its clientele by means of the sick joke that is its smoke machine (except, now, it comes from behind the bar people order from, in case you missed it before — good move, Carl). And later this week, Yale dining will treat you to “Creamy Roast Chicken Breast” (Wednesday) and “Vegetarian Mexican Frittata” (Friday) that, regardless of your reaction, you’ve most likely already paid for.

Frozen yogurt is a cookie-dough topped deviation from this trend of limited options. With four similar suppliers now offering a comparable product to the same customer base, each store is incentivized to innovate and adapt in order to survive. It is unclear how many of these stores will last, but one fact is certain about this froyo Game of Thrones: Yale students will benefit from their struggle.

For whatever reason, icy desserts seem to have a decently long history of jockeying for position on campus. In 2001, Ashley’s first opened on York Street, competing with Chapel Sweet Shoppe, which eventually closed its doors in 2006. In 2004, Cold Stone Creamery opened on Temple Street, but closed in 2009, and Liberry (a Tasti D-Lite like store) opened on High, but was pushed out in 2010.

Today’s crowded marketplace has forced the suppliers of the froyo era to be readily conscious of cost and quality. Consider the different pricing models. Pinkberry is full-service and charges per the size of the cup, ranging between $5.25 and $7.25 in Connecticut stores. Froyo World, on the other hand, chooses to charge 49 cents per ounce, depending on whatever a customer decides to self-serve, making most reasonable orders cheaper than the California-based newcomer. Stores also strive to differentiate, be it through promotions or new services. Last year, Flavors introduced bubble tea to its menu and Froyo World now offers an “after-school” discount for its targeted audience. Placed around each other, Yalies will be able to make an almost immediate decision about which of these products merits their money (or find Polar Delight, wherever that actually is).

What’s more, just like hempin’ (Cf. B-Legit, 1999), froyo ain’t easy and the closing of Liberry is a key example of this. Then located on 45 High Street, the store quickly took a nosedive once Froyo World moved in across the street, losing nearly 90 percent of its business to its new competitor. And this makes sense: Liberry’s product was less desirable (diet ice cream and frozen yogurt), less varied (five flavors instead of six) and more expensive. The frozen marketplace had spoken, and we are better for it. In turn, competitors like Flavors have extensively copied the Froyo model, just in varied locations near campus.

There is a larger takeaway to this saturated market of saturated fats. It is very possible that Yale cannot sustain four frozen yogurt stores. So be it. The fact that these stores have, at a relatively quick rate, changed or gone out of business to accommodate their customers is a prime case study in how more businesses in New Haven should operate: a fluid marketplace that is often compromised by entities like University Properties, which is recurrently capricious, vindictive and too selective in determining leases.

But when it comes to frozen yogurt, here’s to self-serve, neon-colored capitalism, brought to you at the touch of handle on (virtually) every corner.

Harry Graver is a senior in Davenport College. His columns run on alternate Wednesdays. Contact him at harry.graver@yale.edu .

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