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Frozen yogurt wars heat up

Menchie's celebrates grand opening Saturday noon to 5 p.m.

Posted: May 11, 2009 10:21 p.m.
Updated: May 12, 2009 5:00 p.m.

Open now, the new Menchie's frozen yogurt store in Newhall will throw a grand opening celebration Saturday noon to 5 p.m. in the Riverview Plaza shopping center at Sierra Highway and Via Princessa in Newhall.

Frozen yogurt might just be the new ice cream - at least if you talk to the right groups of young and health-conscious people.

To try to capitalize on that trend, the first Menchie's frozen yogurt store in the Santa Clarita Valley will celebrate its grand opening this Saturday from noon to 5 p.m., with music, dancers, contests and giveaways.

"Santa Clarita residents have been driving to the original Menchie's in Valley Village (near Studio City) since it opened there more than three years ago," said John Spishak, owner of the new Menchie's franchise in the Riverview Plaza shopping center at 26865 Sierra Highway on the southwest corner of Sierra Highway and Via Princessa in Newhall.

"Now, they have one much closer to home," he said.

Voted the No. 1 frozen yogurt shop in Los Angeles the last two years by, the first Menchie's raised the bar in a fast-growing industry.

Spishak's store is one of eight new Menchie's franchisees. Another 20 stores are slated to open soon in California and across the country.

Spishak opened the Newhall Menchie's unofficially about six weeks ago with little fanfare, but judging by the crowd of more than 50 customers who packed the store early Sunday evening, the outlet already has a fast-growing following.

"We do frozen yogurt with a different concept - the ‘mix, weigh and pay' way," Spishak said.

Menchie's offers a dozen flavors of frozen yogurt for self-serve customers to mix and match, plus more than 50 toppings including fresh fruit, bite-sized cookies and candies, and hot fudge (regular or low-calorie) and caramel.

The wide variety of flavors includes toffee, cheesecake, root beer float, Irish mint and coconut, along with traditional favorites chocolate and vanilla.

Instead of paying by the topping, customers pay by the ounce - $.39. A full 16-ounce cup costs about $6.25.

Menchie's also offers low-carb, sugar-free and dairy-free yogurt selections, but Spishak said even his regular mix is far healthier than traditional dairy-based ice cream.

"Ninety percent of our flavors are non-fat, and we don't compromise on taste," he said. "We do a lot of things to our flavors to get the taste people seem to enjoy most, like adding real cake batter to our cake-batter yogurt, or mixing extra flavoring into our tart and low-carb selections. They taste as good as, or better, than ice cream."

Spishak said he researched the SCV for more than six months before deciding on the Riverview shopping center location, calling it ideal because it's close to Golden Valley and Canyon high schools, and L.A. Fitness and 24 Hour Fitness have gyms in the neighborhood.

Spishak acknowledges Menchie's could face some stiff competition from other local frozen yogurt outlets such as Pinkberry and Goldenspoon, which also have lines out their doors every weekend.

"We want everyone in the frozen yogurt business to succeed, but we're confident Menchie's will have continued success here because of the different way we go about our business," Spishak said.

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