When Austin Ahmadi applied for the permits to open , he saw a spot in Port Jefferson where he thought the yogurt market was underserved. Little did he know that yogurt-chain giant was opening up at the same time right across the street.
Ahmadi has been in the food-service business for 25 years. He currently owns Voulapitta at 99 Centereach Mall in Centereach, and feels he’s well prepared to compete against Red Mango.
"I don’t want to talk behind anybody’s back," Ahmadi said. "I’m doing my own job and keeping customers happy. I wish they were not here, he wishes I was not here, because the businesses are across the street but we ended up like this."
He said that for some people the idea of opening up a competing store across the street from a corporate chain might be scary but he's not worried.
"I know what I want, I know how to treat my customer," he said. "Honestly, I’m not scared at all."
Ahmadi went on to say that although many businesses have trouble gaining a foothold and attracting customers in the first year, his first six months after opening Yogo Delish have exceeded his expectations.
Likewise, Red Mango didn’t know they’d have another yogurt shop opening up across the street when they chose their location. However, they are aware of the risk of having competition so close.
"Unless you have a compelling menu offering that is by far superior to the company with whom you plan on competing, opening across the street is certainly a risky move," said Dan Kim, Red Mango's founder and chief concept officer.
Now the yogurt shops have to compete with something more than each other: the cold winter months.
Ahmadi feels he has something that Red Mango can’t offer cold customers: hot, homemade soup from Voulapitta. Along with soup, salad and other non-yogurt items are what he believes will be the key to profitability in winter.
"The nature of this business is that it's going to slow down for the cold season," Ahmadi said. "From the beginning we kept in mind that the customer would want something hot. Of course we have some customers come in here for something hot and then they order the yogurt."
Red Mango has their own winter weather offerings. Kim feels customers will stop in for Red Mango's Artisan Hot Chocolate, made with Ghirardelli cocoa.
Like Ahmadi, Kim has seen that some customers crave yogurt regardless of the temperature.
"We’ve learned that unlike ice cream, real frozen yogurt and fresh fruit smoothies aren’t treats consumers eat because of warm or hot weather," he said. "Rather, it’s a fruit-forward meal that people like to eat when they crave yogurt and fruit, not ice cream or popsicles."
The key theme that both owners mentioned was customers. Both believe they have the means to innovate and give their customers the products that they want. How well they do serve their customers over time may demonstrate whether or not Main Street can handle two yogurt shops, or if one will be left out in the cold.