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Downtown: Self-serve yogurt takes over Main Street

It’s been the summer of frozen yogurt in Concord.

On hot days, customers fill paper cups with flavored yogurt, pile on fruit, chocolate and candy toppings and pay by the ounce before digging a brightly colored spoon into the frozen treat.

That scene plays out at two different shops: Dips Frozen Yogurt and Orange Leaf each opened this spring on North Main Street. Owners of both stores – and their customers, surveyed as they ate yogurt – say things are going well.

Mary Hanchett and Holly Ann Richardson sat on a bright-orange couch inside Orange Leaf on Friday. The two friends typically spend time together twice a week. This

summer, their get-togethers have always been at Orange Leaf.

“It’s bright and cheery in here, and they have good toppings,” said Hanchett, as she ate her cheesecake yogurt with cheesecake and cookie dough on top.

Richardson, whose yogurt was packed with fresh fruit, added, “I just like the fact in general that you can do it all yourself.”

The self-serve concept was also exciting for the three young Owens children of Hopkinton, who ran into Dips and stood on their tiptoes to pour their own yogurt Friday afternoon. Their mother, Elisa Owens, said she has brought her kids, ages 3, 5 and 7, to Dips at least five or six times this summer.

Both frozen yogurt shops have the same concept: Customers serve themselves, then weigh their treat to pay. (Both stores charge 49 cents per ounce.)

“We’ve had a great response from the community, from our customers,” said Kristina Hathaway of Exeter, who opened Orange Leaf in June. “Everybody’s really welcomed us with open arms.”

Hathaway and her husband, Jeff, are franchise owners of the Concord Orange Leaf; the national chain has more than 200 stores in 38 states. The Hathaways redid the inside of their leased space on North Main Street with bright green paint, orange tile and colored furniture. They offer 16 flavors at a time; brownie batter and wedding cake are the most popular.

Down the street at Dips, Canterbury native Nicholas Harriman set out to open an independent yogurt store with local food. He uses milk from Contoocook Creamery and Stonyfield Yogurt. Harriman has 12 flavors at once, and is currently planning a lineup for fall that includes pumpkin, cheesecake and apple.

“I usually switch out at least one every couple of weeks,” he said. “Sometimes it’s more, depends on what’s moving.”

Customers appear to be loyal to each yogurt shop. Owens, who was with her three kids at Dips on Friday, said it’s the local ingredients that keep her coming back. She hasn’t tried Orange Leaf.

Blocks away at Orange Leaf, Hanchett said she tried Dips but prefers the flavors and toppings at Orange Leaf.

To others, it’s all the same.

“I really want to try Dips – I’ve heard they’re really good, too,” said Shannon Ketcham of Concord as she ate a bowl of snickerdoodle, cheesecake and peanut butter yogurt at Orange Leaf. Friday was Ketcham’s second time eating self-serve yogurt, and she is already “hooked.”

Gina Graciano, who was eating orange and mango yogurt from Orange Leaf, said she’s just happy to see more options on Main Street. The 31-year-old recently moved back to Concord after spending 10 years away.

“It’s nice to see a little bit of life coming into downtown,” she said.

The yogurt also catches the eye of Concord visitors; Hugh McCann of New London was walking down Main Street with his wife on Friday when he peeked into Dips and said “we just have to go in there.” A few minutes later, he was seated on a white leather couch in the back of the shop, eating from a large cup of chocolate soy yogurt topped with chocolate chunks and watching ESPN on a nearby television.

“I’m in heaven right now,” McCann said, noting that he is a “chocolate nut.”

One great perk of self-serve yogurt: Customers choose their own portion size. For 11-year-old Evan Bailey of Concord, that meant filling his Dips cup with Ruby Red Raspberry Yogurt and as many gummy bears, cherries, Kit Kat bars and Butterfingers as it could hold.

“It’s a fun treat for him,” said his mother, Susan, as her son spun around in his stool between bites and talked about how he’d like to visit Dips more often.

Music moves on

Music Quest, the music store that opened on South State Street in January, has closed its doors. Its inventory will still be for sale online, according to owner D.J. Frechette.

Frechette took a semester off school from NHTI at age 19 to pursue his dream of running a music shop and selling instruments.

But he packed up and moved out on Saturday. The location – in a basement at the corner of Pleasant and State streets, set back behind a parking lot – has been hard for customers to find, Frechette said, and business has been slow.

“The sales in store aren’t enough to help to get going,” he said. “We can’t even advertise.”

The store’s online catalog – available at musicquestllc.com – includes guitars, music books and accessories.

And Frechette still hopes to teach guitar lessons.

“I actually have a student right now, and I just made arrangements with her (on Thursday) to continue lessons,” he said.

Second-floor signs

The Capital Commons now has 125 fewer spaces available to the public.

Signs are being installed on the second floor of the garage to reserve 125 spaces leased by developer Steve Duprey, according to City Manager Tom Aspell’s weekly newsletter.

Duprey has a 20-year lease with the city for the parking spaces, which will be used by tenants of his newest building on South Main Street, on the former site of the New Hampshire Bindery.

The signs are going into place as new tenants move into the building; Gibson’s Bookstore is scheduled to open on the first floor at 11 a.m. tomorrow.

The garage has a total of 516 spaces; 125 will remain open for public use. The public spaces are primarily on the west side of the garage, next to the Capital Commons office building, Aspell wrote in his newsletter.

Duprey also leases 150 spaces for his Smile Building on South Main Street, which opened in 2011. The other 116 spaces in the garage are leased to tenants of the Capital Commons building.

Weekend with water

Boats shaped like dragons and ducks will descend on Concord this weekend.

The first Weekend on the Water event at Kiwanis Riverfront Park will include dragon boat races, a fitness race, a craft beer festival, rubber duck races and tours of the city in a Super Duck Boat.

The weekend is organized by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. Proceeds from the event will go toward the construction of a new multipurpose building and skate house at White Park.

It kicks off at 8:30 a.m. Saturday with a Mad Dog Fitness 5K urban obstacle course, according to the event schedule. Dragon boat races on the Merrimack River, in which 20 paddlers, a drummer and a helmsman ride in a dragon-shaped boat, will begin at 9 a.m. and continue until 5 p.m.

A beer garden will be in the park both days and will host a craft beer festival on Saturday afternoon.

Between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturday, visitors can take a tour of Concord in a Super Duck Boat. (The tour will be on the land only.)

On Sunday, the park will hold a Concord Crew Regatta, the Concord Arts Market, and a rubber duck race.

Evolution Rock and Fitness will offer a climbing wall both days. The weekend also includes live music.

For more information, visit Concordparksandrec.com.

Happy holiday

City offices are closed today for Labor Day.

Downtown parking is free all day. There is no trash pickup today; all trash and recycling pickup will be one day later than usual this week.

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or
lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)

Legacy Comments5

i wish the yogurt guys good luck after labor day...Downtown Concord is a hostile place after the first flake fly...I predict there will be no yogurt shops in the fall of 2014... I wish you luck but dont invest too much more money...

Both the Yogurt places have problem. I have yet to see a price per weight posted nor a pre-buy scale. Its is quite a ticker shock once one is at register. I would prefer to see a per-container price rather then weight.

A pre-buy scale would not be practical as you have already dispensed the product. I do agree with you on the price per ounce part of your post. In California there are places with a price per weight of as little as 39 cents and as much as 89 cents.

It would help at least give you some warning before sticker shock.

How many minimum wage workers at each of these successful yogurt shops????

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