BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT: Choose your own frozen adventure

As the renovations began that would change the storefront at 2301 Honolulu Ave. in Montrose from its former use as a foot clinic to its current incarnation as a soft-serve frozen-yogurt shop, franchisee Albert Hwang decided to leave the store windows uncovered to let passersby watch the transformation.

When the finished product — a new branch in the frozen-yogurt chain Dolci Mango — opened for business in mid-July after four months of construction, a surprising number of people walked right in on the first day, Hwang said.

“People were curious,” he said.

The new interior that greeted customers is modern-looking, with silver and yellow seats, bright-white light fixtures and walls painted yellow and green.

“When I turn on my lights at night, you can't miss it,” Hwang said.

Hwang, who is 28 and trained as a graphic designer, did some of the design work for the store's interior, including the menu and signs.

While the new Dolci Mango store joins existing frozen-yogurt shops like Yolicious, Céfiore and Pinkberry in Montrose, La Crescenta and La Cañada, respectively, Hwang thinks his store's prices and variety of flavors and will attract customers.

“We're cheaper, and we offer so much more,” he said.

In contrast to his nearby competitors, which tend to offer three or four flavors of frozen yogurt, Hwang's branch of Dolci Mango boasts 12.

On a Tuesday in mid-July, those flavors ranged from honeydew, a nonfat option, to sugar-free blueberry, to low-fat peanut butter.

The store also offers in excess of 30 topping choices — from mandarin oranges to cookie dough — a number that tops most of its competitors.

Also in contrast to many of Dolci Mango's competitors, customers serve themselves from the yogurt machines and topping bins, and pay for their creation by weight — it's 37 cents an ounce — rather than for an established small, medium or large.

That means customers can have fun making an individualized dessert, or just get a tiny portion as a snack, Hwang said.

“It's great for little kids, because they want to make their own thing, too,” he said.

Eleven-year-old Ani Aghakhanian was one such customer.

Ani had created a self-serve concoction with a medley of strawberries, bananas, M & Ms, and sprinkles as toppings.

“We can get anything we want and how much we want,” she said.

Ani was at the Montrose Dolci Mango with family and friends for the second time since the store had opened.

The self-serve, pay-by-weight system was one that Hwang said he suggested to the Dolci Mango company. Hwang is opening another Dolci Mango branch in Moorpark that will use the concept, and the downtown Glendale location of Dolci Mango is undergoing renovations to add this system, too, he said.

“This is a new model,” he said.

Evenings between 7 and 10 p.m. have been the store's peak times, said Clara Hwang, Albert Hwang's sister, who helps manage the store. At those times, the line out the door can stretch to 30 or 40 people long, she said.

The daytime, while slower, sees mothers with children as well as retirees coming in, Clara Hwang said.

“We have our regulars,” she said.

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