November 9, 2011

Frozen Yogurt Store Will Open at Former Johnny O’s Location

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A new self-serve frozen yogurt shop is likely to open at 408 College Ave. — the former location of Johnny O’s — next semester, allowing students to fill cups with fruity yogurt where they once downed pitchers of beer.

The store, to be called “Yogurt Crazy,” will replace the bar that closed in August. It is the fifth store to open in the family-owned and -operated chain based out of Suffolk County, Long Island.

Customers will be able to dispense their own yogurt — including non-fat, low-fat and dairy-free varieties — from eight self-serve machines and choose from more than 50 toppings.

Brendan Hackett, one of the store’s owners, said he and his family decided to open their fifth shop in Ithaca in part because of his family’s ties to the area and what he identified as the need for more diversified social options in Collegetown.

“I love Ithaca. I went to school at Ithaca College, and my father and sister went to Cornell,” Hackett said. “We were looking for a place to open a new store and decided Ithaca would be the perfect place.”

Hackett also noted that the recent string of bar-closings in Collegetown — Dino’s also closed this summer — opened the door for Yogurt Crazy and other establishments to stake their claim in the area.

“It seems like the bars keep disappearing and landlords don’t want to put bars back in there due to liability and noise,” Hackett said. “We wanted to give people a place to hang out that was upbeat but not too noisy.”

The site’s landlord, who would not be identified by name, confirmed Hackett’s assertion that landlords in Collegetown are apprehensive to rent space to bars.

“We’ve had to reduce our tenant’s rents over the years because of the noise from Johnny O’s,” the landlord said. “We wanted to opt for something that was of better convenience for the tenants upstairs, and we have definitely used the store as a selling point.”

The landlord added that as a result of the new yogurt store, Avramis Realty will likely raise the rents of its apartments at 408 College Ave. for the 2013 to 2014 year.

Jason Burnham, the owner of Jason Grocery & Deli, said that he has been selling yogurt for a number of years and is not concerned by the potential competition with Yogurt Crazy.

“Usually there is always a second yogurt place in Collegetown — Tastee Delight just closed a semester or two ago,” Burnham said. “But our yogurt has always been popular and our sales never seem to go up or down … we don’t sell any more when a place opens or closes.”

Several students who have rented apartments at 408 College Ave. for the 2012 to 2013 year said they were excited to be living over Yogurt Crazy.

“If I had to choose anything to be below my apartment, that is exactly what I would choose,” Jaime Landsmen ’14 said. “I think there is a big market and a high demand for something like this and the location is really lucrative.”

Rachel Lacks ’14 said she thought the opening of Yogurt Crazy would fill a gap in Collegetown’s social scene.

“Collegetown needs space for students to socialize. Most places in Collegetown are residential apartments or restaurants,” Lacks said. “It is hard to find a place besides bars where you can sit down and chat with friends.”

Yet some students lamented the change to the fabric of Collegetown and said that a new bar was needed to reduce overcrowding at Rulloff’s, Pixel, Dunbar’s and Level B.

“I’m very disappointed,” Tom Randall ’11 said. “I thought this was going to be a fun place to hang out, but what we really need is another bar  — right now everyone just ends up at Pixel and the place is packed.”

Seth Gelbwaks ’12 said that replacing Johnny O’s with a frozen yogurt place detracts from the social lure of Cornell and from Collegetown.

“I’m sure students will enjoy the frozen yogurt spot for what it is, but there is still a void that needs to be filled,” Gelbwaks said in an email. “College Ave. is not the same, I can tell you that.”

Alyson Warhit contributed reporting.

Original Author: Liz Camuti