The sun may have played coy for their first day of business, but despite the breezy, day-long threat of rain and a late evening thunderstorm, serving up more than 700 cups of frozen yogurt is a good measure of success for Jeff and Michelle Kindrat.
The North Kildonan couple opened their Spoon Me franchise at 2705 Main St. in Riverbend on Thurs., July 18 to a steady swirl of customers that caught them by surprise.
"It was five to 10 p.m. and customers were dashing through the rain to get a cup before we closed," said Michelle Kindrat, noting the store ran out of five of its 12 yogurt flavours by early evening, as well as a number of its 72 toppings.
"It was ridiculous. It put into perspective how busy we’re going to be, which is awesome."
The store has been in the works since last August, after the pair saw a billboard for the brand while on vacation in the United States last year, Jeff Kindrat said.
"We thought, ‘That’s a cool name. Can you imagine owning a place called Spoon Me?’" recalled Jeff, an assistant manager at a North Kildonan Superstore, adding they had also been looking at acquiring a tanning franchise.
"(Frozen yogurt) was an untapped market in Winnipeg."
Indeed, it was — but market analyst predictions last year calling for a froyo boom across Canada in 2013 have been proving true and Winnipeggers have been all too eager to get their ounceful.
The Kindrats may have been working on their location for close to a year, but other Winnipeg entrepreneurs have been turning the market into a race.
Spoon Me is headquartered in Winnipeg and opened its first store in Winnipeg Square downtown last year. It opened three locations in Regina last week.
Tutti Frutti has opened up locations across Winnipeg, including Polo Park Shopping Centre late last year, Grant Park in March and in Corydon Village earlier this month. In May, a Menchies opened up on Dakota Street in St. Vital.
"We are invading Winnipeg," laughed Menchies owner Donna Leclaire, who was convinced, in part, to open a franchise by her daughter, who owns one in Regina.
The stores, different by name, are similar in concept: soft serve frozen yogurt self-served, measured and paid for by the ounce, and pitched as a healthy alternative to ice cream even with the dozens of fruit, candy, chocolate and cereal topping options that vary by location.
"We’re a more health-conscious society, watching our waistlines, our fat, our cholesterol," said Gabriella Bridges, store manager and one of six co-owners of a Tutti Frutti that opened on Corydon Avenue on July 6.
"Compared to ice cream and gelato, frozen yogurt has more protein, calcium, probiotics, and less sugar and less fat."
Ben Benson, who has been writing about food in Winnipeg at SavourWinnipeg.com for five years, said a love for frozen snacks is something that’s culturally embedded in Winnipeggers, thanks to a short summer season.
Winnipeg’s multiple cultural influences make it hard to predict the next food trend, Benson said.
But, trends come in waves and usually hit the city late, Benson said. In the last five years, the city has seen spikes in appetite for Mexican and Latin American cuisine, specialty food trucks, and an uptake in specialty, cupcake, gelato and ice cream shops.
"We like what we like and we’re slower to accept something new in our lives. But, once we do, we really embrace it and go to town on it," said Benson.
"I guess it’s been an ongoing evolution of frozen treats."