May. 19, 2010

Daily Pilot

Checking in with…Icicles: Creations to ‘freeze’ your taste buds – Creating the perfect blend of yogurt flavor and toppings really is the art of the possible. So says Amanda Leibowitz, who has just opened Icicles, a frozen yogurt shop that’s known for its top-quality product and down-home feel.

What’s your background, and what made you decide to open a yogurt shop?

I’ve lived here for nearly seven years; I’m from England, and I’m a personal trainer and aerobics instructor. I’d never even heard of frozen yogurt until about three years ago. Once I tried this frozen yogurt, I became a little bit obsessed with it. [Laughs] I heard about how frozen yogurt was going to be the new Starbucks, so I started researching it. A friend of mine was interested in opening one as well, so we got into it together. We actually went to the dairy where we purchase our yogurt from, and were so impressed with their product; they use four different strains of bacteria.

How do you stand out in such a competitive market?

We’re a little bit different. We didn’t want to be anything like “berry” or “cherry.” We’re not a franchise, and we just took a new manager who’s a Le Cordon Bleu chef. My business partner is a restaurateur as well, so he’s quite keen to try out new things. We’re offering a very high-end product that’s very delicious and fun. We always have a sorbet, and all our yogurt is kosher as well. That really, to me, gives us the edge. Since I’m a fitness instructor, for me to put my name to it, it would have to be a good product, and it truly is.

The store is European style, with big glass windows. A lot of these yogurt stores are on university campuses, so they usually cater to teenagers and students. Here, little kids and grandparents come in; we’ve got a full range of ages. It’s amazing that little kids ages 4 or 5 can walk in, use the machine and know exactly what toppings they want. There are so many businesses now that are struggling; this is such a happy environment. People can spend a couple of dollars and enjoy themselves.

We’re in a very nice neighborhood; all our employees are from the local high school. We have a flat-screen TV with a constant slide show of the people who come into the shop. The pictures capture the atmosphere and the faces of the people eating the yogurt.

What flavors and toppings do you offer?

Our most popular flavor is vanilla, followed by our European tart; red velvet also is very popular. The health-conscious people like to top European tart with fruit. We always have lots of fresh fruit. We’ve got about 48 toppings. Some are low-calorie, but we have lots for the kids, too. You can always tell when we’ve had kids in here, because the rainbow sprinkles are all over the place. It’s just fascinating to see how people create their own yogurt. Some of the creations are amazing. Some people start off healthy with fruit, and then get a few sour worms or chocolate rocks.

Any specials or promotions right now that we can mention?

We offer a 10% discount to Corona del Mar High School students and staff with ASB cards, and we constantly put specials and discounts on our Facebook page, like free red velvet yogurt for the first five people who walk in wearing red T-shirts. We just started offering gift cards, and we have other product lines that we’re launching in the next few weeks.

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