When Lisa Pizzurro, co-owner of Treat Frozen Yogurt in Cross River, visited her sister in Southern California a few years ago, she made a life-changing discovery. “We would go and get frozen yogurt and one brand was so good! We actually went through withdrawal when we got back home.”
The withdrawal symptoms begged for a cure, but when Pizzurro and her husband searched for a local alternative, the nearest frozen dessert shops were at least 15 minutes from their area.
In the past, the couple had discussed opening their own business. After a few trips to visit her sister, Pizzurro and her husband began seriously talking about opening up a frozen yogurt shop of their own.
“The talks went a bit further than usual with my sister-in-law, Amy Civetta,” Pizzurro said. “She mentioned her kids wanted ice cream and she said she didn’t want to drive 15 minutes in any direction to get it.” So the women began plotting their business strategy. Pizzurro admits that she had no business background: “I never had a career. I was a stay-at-home mom. I had jobs here and there but never a career.” Civetta also had little business knowledge, so they did their due diligence.
“We just did a lot of research online and reached out to those who had business experience – those who had frozen yogurt shops in California, Illinois and Florida,” Pizzurro said. “We also found a community of people who shared with us the ins and outs of the business.” She added it was important for the business venture not to move forward unless they found a product they could distribute that was like the frozen yogurt they discovered on the West Coast. The owner of the frozen yogurt shop there was skeptical and didn’t want to help them, but through product sampling, Pizzurro and Civetta discovered the same distributor who was willing to broker a deal.
After a year of planning, the sisters-in-law launched the store in April 2010. They found investors and pooled their own resources to come up with the roughly $200,000 start-up cost and settled into the store’s current home at Orchard Square, formerly Cross River Plaza.
Since the store opened more than two years ago, a lot has changed in Cross River. “It’s interesting – when we opened, we were the only place in a 15-mile radius,” said Pizzurro. “Part of the reason we felt confident was because there wasn’t any place local. Now there are a ton of places. We have competitors all over.” Pizzurro added that business increased by 10 percent in the two years since they opened, but recently competitors have played their part in deflating that financial cushion.
Pizzurro still insists her business remains strong. In fact, she said Treat Frozen Yogurt is still highly sought after and the brand is expanding into area markets, selling their peanut butter-flavored frozen yogurt. “I’m so proud of the shop and branching out,” said Pizzurro. “I’m extra proud to be a successful and female-driven enterprise.”