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Kids' jonesing for treat spurs Yogurtland deals


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POSTED: Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Yogurtland chain of frozen yogurt shops is expanding to Kaanapali, Kahului and Hilo via a former McDonald's franchisee and investors.

Part-owner Ray Bella got into it partly because his children, ages 6 and 8, love to go to the University Avenue and Hawaii Kai locations where they can fill their own bowls and sprinkle on their own toppings, but also because “;I looked into the business side, and it made total sense,”; he said.

Bella is also owner and president of Honolulu-based Marble Group LLC, which does stone and tile work statewide.

“;I feel like … our culture is moving in to healthier options, and I think I'd like to be part of that,”; he said.

Tyrone Manandic, general manager, worked his way up from a McDonald's employee as a high-schooler to an owner-operator. He left that business and went into consulting and business-plan writing for the U.S. Small Business Administration and, later, Alu Like Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps native Hawaiians achieve social and economic self-sufficiency. Then he got into real estate as a mortgage broker.

Now he's a yogurt guy.

He is just back from Yogurtland training camp in California, where the chain is based, and will post his first help-wanted listings this morning at the Whaler's Village location in Kaanapali, on Craigslist and elsewhere.

About 20 to 25 employees will be hired for each store, which will be 1,200 to 1,500 square feet.

“;We're building out two,”; but three stores are planned at the moment, in Kaanapali, at Queen Kaahumanu Center in Kahului and in Hilo near Walmart.

The Whaler's Village store is expected to open Dec. 15. The Kahului store is slated to open early next year, but there is not yet a target opening for the Hilo store.

Unlike on Oahu, where cute shops selling frozen yogurt and fro-yo — its tangier, Asian-born counterpart — have exploded, Yogurtland is entering a market ripe for competition, Manandic said, citing its only competition as Tutti Frutti Frozen Yogurt.

It is a chain with stores in 12 countries, including six in Hawaii, with one each in Kahului and Kihei.

Yogurtland has about 60 stores in California, Nevada, Texas, Arizona, Florida, Japan and Hawaii.

“;It's new-school frozen yogurt,”; Manandic said, as compared with the frozen yogurt we have known previously.

“;It's all fresh ingredients … all fresh milk,”; as opposed to other companies he did not name that use powdered milk.

Manandic's daughter is already a huge fan. “;Daddy, it's the bomb,”; she told him.

“;She's gotta get it three times a week,”; he laughed.

The Yogurtland near Cal State Fullerton, near the training facility, “;was open until midnight with students lined up to get their midnight munchies ... wanting a healthy treat,”; Manandic said.

The franchisees have no immediate plans to expand to Kauai, though other locations on Maui and the Big Island are possible, Bella said.

“;It's kind of hard to tell,”; he said. “;When I first saw Starbucks or Jamba Juice ... I didn't think there was room for another one down the street, but I guess there is,”; he chuckled.

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Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Reach her by e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).