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Sweet success: Manchester yogurt shop enjoys solid start despite cold

New Hampshire Union Leader

January 28. 2013 8:11PM
Co-owner Thanh Thanh Nguyen, left, and employee Liz Andwood stand in front of the frozen yogurt dispensers at the newly opened business, Sweet Kiwi Frozen Yogurt, on Second Street in Manchester, Monday afternoon. (MARK BOLTON/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER - Frozen yogurt sales during the coldest week of the winter were a pleasant surprise to the owners of the new Sweet Kiwi Frozen Yogurt shop on Second Street.

While business wasn't exactly overwhelming, it could have been much worse considering temperatures outside were often colder than the kiwi, mango or the dozens of other flavors on tap.

"We know it's not the best time to sell a frozen product right now, but it's doing OK," said Tom Dang, who opened the franchise with his wife, Katie Nguyen, and her sister Thanh Thanh.

The grand opening for the first Sweet Kiwi franchise in New Hampshire was a week and a half ago in a strip mall near the Queen City Avenue bridge.

It took several rounds of scouting locations before finding the spot they wanted in September. Renovations on the former hair salon started in November, which included decking it out in Sweet Kiwi's signature colors of green, orange and yellow. The Manchester shop has a tile mosaic along the wall where six dispensers are lined up with two flavors in each.

"It took us a longer time to build than what we planned on because we built during the holidays," Dang said.

There was also an addition to the family when the couple's first child, Maximus, was born Dec. 21. But they got the work done in time to open on schedule Jan. 19.

Sweet Kiwi is based in Lowell, Mass., and has 54 flavors in all, rotating some of the more exotic tastes in with the most popular every few days. Customers are free to top the lowfat yogurt with their choice of more than 50 toppings, which range from fresh fruit, nuts and cereal to something more decadent like hot fudge or various candies.

The first week went well enough that the family is considering a second franchise in the Concord area, but they want to establish a customer base in Manchester first. The early returns were encouraging.

"I wouldn't go out for ice cream or yogurt in this kind of weather, but fortunately we got a big crowd so we're very happy about it," said Nguyen, who works full-time as an actuary for an insurance company in Massachusetts. Between her number crunching and Dang's experience as the owner of three Vietnamese restaurants in Lowell and Chelmsford, Mass., the couple thought they could make a Sweet Kiwi franchise work in Manchester.

They stashed some money away to get them through the winter months and are planning on business picking up this spring and summer.

"People love the taste of yogurt," Dang said.

The shop employs six people outside the family and is still offering grand opening promotions. Thanh Thanh, who lives in Manchester, runs the shop during the week and younger sister Katie comes up from the couple's home in Tyngsborough, Mass., on weekends.

"We are new, so a lot of people maybe might not know we're here," Thanh Thanh said. "I'm so happy all the process is done."

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