Once known exclusively as a frozen dessert shop, SnoJoy Cafe on Whitney Avenue reopened last week with a new cold offering — sushi.
Located behind Timothy Dwight College, the dessert shop opened this May with cold dessert options, primarily shaved snow. But after finding that business was slow, the managers decided to relaunch the business with a new variety of offerings, including sushi and rice bowls. After closing for three days to remodel the menu, the cafe opened up on Thursday.
Although co-owner of SnoJoy Cafe Jolina Lee said most of the cafe’s advertisements have been geared towards Yale students, only six out of 14 students interviewed said they had heard of SnoJoy Cafe, and only two had actually eaten there.
The lack of Yale frequenters is one of the main reasons why the cafe undertook such a striking menu change, Lee said.
“We realized this is not the best location,” Lee said, noting that most students who do frequent the shop are in the nearby Silliman or Timothy Dwight Colleges. She said during the weekdays, the street is “mostly dead” except when office workers are on their lunch break. Often when people did come in, she said, they would realize the store only served dessert items and leave.
Thus, the owners decided to add meal options to make the most out of their location. Lee said the change was relatively straightforward — the cafe was only closed for three days, during which the owners themselves painted the interior, added the few additional pieces of equipment needed, put up a new menu board and organized the hot food that would be served.
“We got the concept from California because they have a sushi burrito place in San Francisco where people were lining up and waiting four blocks for sushi,” Lee said.
Only two new employees were hired — the sushi masters — as Lee called them. They work on alternating days from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to cut the vegetables and prepare the raw fish into sushi.
Sushi master Lee Zheng said he joined SnoJoy Cafe after preparing sushi for 15 years, adding that he has enjoyed his first week on the job.
The change has been well-received, Lee said, noting that the total number of customers has increased this week. She added that customers who previously purchased dessert products have now begun ordering sushi on top of their usual order, which was the owners’ main goal. With the weather getting colder and both Pinkberry and Polar Delight closing down, the owners wanted to make sure SnoJoy was kept running, Lee said.
Still, Lee believes Yalies “don’t know SnoJoy exists.”
“I did a student planner ad but I didn’t feel like that was effective,” Lee said. “When school started back up and the students came back, we put menus on bulletin boards, but I don’t know how much that helped.
Mike Yoon ’18, a resident of Silliman College, said he has been to the cafe four times this semester, after a friend in Timothy Dwight recommended it.
While Yoon agrees that the location of SnoJoy is detrimental to its business, he added that the cafe’s high prices may also turn away potential customers. A small cup of shaved snow costs $3.95 and each additional topping is 50 cents.
Other businesses located near SnoJoy Cafe also have said they too have difficulty attracting Yale students to their shops. Owner of Town Pizza Restaurant Nick Yorgakalol said his restaurant, located just down the street from SnoJoy Cafe, does not attract many Yale students.
“We’re sort of off the beaten path,” he said. He added that most business comes from lunchtime and catering to offices, including some Yale offices.
SnowJoy Cafe offers five different flavors of shaved snow.