One of the interesting things about Parsippany-Troy Hills is the proximity of businesses that cater to township residents. Enterprises in nearby Morris Plains, Mountain Lakes and Denville are patronized heavily by township residents.
A good example is Yogurtland, a frozen yogurt shop in Union Hill Shoppes, a retail center on Route 10 east that is just down the road from Craftsman Farms and Powder Mill.
Owners Karim and Silvia Farag took control of the fro-yo franchise, which opened last summer under a previous owner, and bought it outright in December.
"We've been [researching this industry] for a year and a half," said Karim Farag. "We took over the franchise officially on Dec. 15, after we bought it from the previous franchisee. Things are going great!"
Farag and his wife both said they did extensive research when they decided to go into the frozen yogurt business. While looking through the franchise opportunities—"There are tons of competitors," said Silvia Farag, mentioning Twist, Red Mango and Let's Yo, for three—the couple were struck by Yogurtland's self-service fro-yo concept.
"What attracted us is their flavors," said Karim Farag. "All proprietary, developed in-house. They use real fruit, and in terms of flavors, I don't even know the exact number, probably more than 80. If you're not a Yogurtland franchisee, you can't have access to those flavors."
His wife agreed.
"I didn't even like frozen yogurt," said Silvia Farag, who said she couldn't handle what she described as a dairy aftertaste. "But this is so good! All the others use YoCream, from Costco, which I think is just gross. Yogurtland makes their own, so it doesn't have that aftertaste. It's just delicious."
The Farags split the labor—he handles the business end of the enterprise; she handles staff, marketing and ordering.
"What makes us stand out is these amazing flavors, our outstanding customer service and the mood," she said. "This is a very happy place, and we are focused on keeping it clean so our customers have a great experience every time."
If the adage "good help is hard to find" is true—and many business owners say it is—Silvia Farag said she's had no problem finding great staffers.
"That's because I don't put up 'Help Wanted' signs," she said.
She pointed to a young man behind the cash register as an example.
"I met him in another store where he worked," Silvia Farag explained. "He went over and above to give us outstanding service. Afterward, I asked him if he wanted to work more hours, and now he's here with us."
But customer service, she said, isn't all that creates the long lines that can be found at the shop on days when the weather is nice.
"Oh yeah, it's the flavors," Silvia Farag said, nodding her head.
The list presented on the company website at yogurt-land.com is extensive and even sounds delicious. Varieties include Tangerine Tart, Double Cookies and Cream, Cinnamon Graham Cracker, New York Cheesecake and Guava Strawberry Pineapple Sorbet, Red Velvet Cake and literally dozens more, which present unique combinations of fruit and flavors.
"Coming up, we'll have Birthday Cake Batter, which is delicious," she said. "And right now, we have a new one, S'mores, and we even have a Greek yogurt flavor, Raspberry Banana Greek yogurt. It's really popular, and it's good for you too."
She noted that many offerings are sugar-free, some are gluten-free and many have only 30 calories per ounce.
"One woman who's on a diet comes in every day and has yogurt for one of her meals," Silvia Farag shared, adding that the yogurt is probiotic, with active live cultures.
"We're doing really well," she said. "The trick is trying to keep up with the demand. We're always providing our customers something new, not just the standard 10 or 12 flavors folks carry. There's always something new they're developing to keep customers engaged and coming back."
Karim Farag said the economy has not been a massive problem for Yogurtland.
"Our price point is very low; the average cup is under $5," he said, noting that the self-serve product is sold by the ounce at 43 cents per ounce. "It's not an expensive treat. It's also a healthy treat. The nutiritional info on all our flavors is available on the website."
It can also be found on the yogurt dispensers in the shop.
"What I have seen, looking at historical sales from the previous owner, is that sales were depressed a little last year, but that I think was due to people's lives being disrupted by Hurricane Sandy," he said. "November and December were slower than usual. People were out of commission, some for weeks. When your life is disrupted, that significantly alters your routine."
Karim Farag said sales bounced back at the start of the new year.
"That's what we expected," said the man his wife calls "the number cruncher." "People have been using gift cards bought for them over the holidays. It's been great.
"I can't complain."
The couple chose the Union Hill Shoppes location because of the proximity to their Morris Plains home and because they frequent the shopping center themselves.
"When we heard the shop was for sale, it made sense to us," he said. "The center has good foot traffic, good national brands and tenants, and lots of people from Parsippany and Morris Plains and Denville, so that's why we picked it.
"Our goal is not to own and operate one store, but to have a few stores and to bring not this concept and this product to more people, Karim Farag continued. "It's a growing concept and we think Yogurtland has an advantage from a flavor perspective. There are only three of them in New Jersey, so there's lots of room to grow."
"This is an investment," said his wife. "And we believe it's a good one."