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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Pinkberry sprouts up at UA

    Kevin Brost
    Kevin Brost / Arizona Daily Wildcat Pinkberry, a premium frozen yogurt company hailing from West Hollywood, California, is set to open in the Student Union Memorial Center across from the Wells Fargo in Spring 2012 (or maybe sooner) on October 13, 2011.

    With the arrival of Pinkberry in early January, both Cactus Grill and U-Mart will stop serving fro-yo and focus more on homemade ice cream — but local Tucson yogurt businesses say they aren’t scared by new competition.

    Renovations began this past week at the Student Union Memorial Center for the incoming Pinkberry. When Melissa Schwartz, a political science sophomore raised in Los Angeles, first heard the rumor of Pinkberry at the union, she said she was excited that a California favorite of hers had come to Tucson.

    For many Californians, it will “bring a sense of home,” Schwartz said. A “tart and refreshing” dessert, Schwartz also points out, “(Pinkberry) will be really nice here when it’s unbearably hot.”

    Leyla Hezar, a business management junior from Southern California, says the tartness of Pinkberry is what makes it unique.

    “It gives a little kick to it and all the unusual flavors mix really well,” she said. “It’s very light and doesn’t make you feel heavy after eating it like other frozen yogurts.”

    Pinkberry was originally founded in 2005 in West Hollywood by Hye Kyung Hwang and Young Lee. After that, Pinkberry became so popular that a mere two years later, the once small company was bought by Maveron, a venture founded by Starbucks owner Howard Schultz.

    Ranked No. 1 in its category in Zagat, Pinkberry now has a variety of flavors such as green tea, pomegranate, PB & J, watermelon and many others, as well as mix-in toppings. When considering what students would to see in the space that had been vacated by Boost, a convenience store, UA student union dining service managers and directors said Pinkberry “just made sense.” According to Jon Levengood, retail dining manager for Arizona Student Unions, “Pinkberry has a people-oriented company and it’s good to partner with its principles.”

    To get the ball rolling on the project, a small team from the UA flew out to Los Angeles to meet with Pinkberry corporate representatives, see the operation and make sure all of Pinkberry’s elements and principles were correct for the partnership.

    “Their warm friendly environment fits the campus experience,” said Jianne Johnson, manager for Student Food Service.

    But it took a year to turn the idea into a project that’s now primed to break ground.

    “It is no easy task,” Johnson said. “The space was never designed for food service,” he said. Holes will have to be cut into the cement floor for drains and sinks.

    Pinkberry is also working with the project’s architects and general contractors so all mandatory elements will be installed and they can see the size of the space they are working with, said Johnson.

    Originally slated to open on Jan. 9 to coincide with the beginning of the spring semester, Pinkberry’s grand opening has been pushed back to late January or early February because of the long processing period required to obtain building permits, Levengood said.

    To ensure the operation is run according to standards met by Pinkberry franchises across the country, three principal trainers and supervisors, including Levengood, will be trained at corporate headquarters in Los Angeles for three weeks.

    Afterward, the trainers will return and hire students through a series of, not interviews, but auditions to find “fun, engaged employees,” according to Levengood.

    In regards to competition among self-service frozen yogurt businesses around the Tucson area, many are saying they won’t be affected.

    BTO (By The Ounce) Frozen Yogurt managers Naomi Dewer and Genevieve Gamboa agree that Pinkberry will be a “big deal” in the beginning. However, the shine and appeal of it will eventually wear off, Dewer said. Both Gamboa and Dewer spoke of their loyal Tucson community customer base and said with BTO’s quality products, self-service and relaxing environment, they can compete with anything put into a union environment.

    Students that enjoy getting off campus during the weekends and at night might appreciate going to a place like U-Swirl for a social hangout scene, said U-Swirl employee Grace Curry.

    Curry also said the prices of Pinkberry and the supposed lack of choice in how little or much you want to indulge with flavors and toppings may lead to its downfall.

    But do customers care about health or expense or is it all about the Pinkberry trend? We’ll just have to wait and see next semester.

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