James Alex and James Barberian are best friends who have more in common than just their first names, they are also business partners. The pair decided to start up an Orange Leaf franchise, and now have three frozen yogurt shops open and thriving.
The first franchise opened in June of 2012, and is located in Lexington; shorty thereafter, they opened a second in Exeter, N.H. and now the third installment has finally opened after a few minor setbacks, in the location of the former Anthony's Deli in the Danvers square.
The partners have a clearly defined recipe for success with the self serve yogurt chain, which is fairly new to the area, (although the concept has been around for a while), and the friends have designs on expanding further as they own the rights to 13 franchises.
Manager of operations Amar Hirani will have a strong presence in the Danvers Orange Leaf for the foreseeable future. The Lexington native said his job managing all of the assets of the partners has been an amazing experience, and he is excited to be located right downtown in Danvers.
The location, according to Hamir, was chosen by the owners who scouted the area and determined the 2 High St. spot to be exactly what they were looking for in terms of being central to the downtown.
"Every location we've had so far has been dead center of every town, so I'm guessing they are trying for a central location," he said. "They know about the other businesses having problems here, but they are not worried about the location, or the parking; every location we have has no parking, and have been a success; we rely on foot traffic."
The success is most likely tied directly to the product. Orange Leaf, which is a franchise that started in California, is a self serve frozen yogurt shop with a bank of 60 flavors, 16 available at any one time, and a huge topping bar which allows customers to create endless combinations to their liking.
Adults and kids alike have been flocking to Orange Leaf since the opening to customize their favorite flavors, lounging with friends in front of the central fireplace, or hanging out in the expansive seating. According to Hirani, the afternoon after January first saw a huge amount of foot traffic, as the tween and teenagers migrated in after their first full day back at school.
The convenience of Orange Leaf's location, tucked behind People's United Bank on the same side of the street as the Holten Richmond Middle School, may be the charm with this franchise. The buildings involved went through a major renovation, as the space called for the knocking down of two walls, one of which was cement filled, and the takeover of the neighboring two rental spaces. Although there were some minor glitches along the way, Hirani is quick to state,“The town has been very helpful. People here have been very friendly and patient while we worked it all out and overall, it's been very positive...”
He continued, “The demo took three weeks...we gutted wall to wall, floor to ceiling, and installed all new electric, plumbing, flooring. We were very lucky the sign (out front) was grandfathered.”
Once the free Wi-fi is up and running, which will be soon, Hirani is certain it will bring in that foot traffic while giving folks an excuse to linger inside the yogurt shop.
"In the short time I've seen this downtown, I think its a really nice downtown area, and I see everyone hanging out at Supreme's and Rocco's..."
When asked if there is a perceived competition between Orange Leaf and Goodies Ice Cream, the popular 1950's themed shop just a block down the street, Hirani quickly assured that even though the two businesses offer frozen treats, there are clear distinctions. He said, "Some people prefer frozen yogurt, some prefer ice cream. Goodies is actually really cool with the pink, '50 theme, there aren't many of them anymore, but what we have is a totally different product. It's like Panini's Pizzeria and Rocco's all have similar food to compete, but they are still all different."
Hirani also explained the difference with Orange Leaf is in the self-serve concept on which the franchise is based, a formula that has proven success, because, "It's self serve, rather than we serve you, it's more customer service based, we get more time to really spend with the customer, we can walk up and chat about the flavors and combinations, converse with them, they are designing their own food for themselves because it's a self serve, so it's all up to the consumer how they want to make it."
He continued, "The most interesting combo, we just opened two days ago, this one kid came up with 25.5 oz of frozen yogurt, thats a solid 1.5 lbs of frozen yogurt. His name was Connor something, he's 12-years old, and I told him if he could finish it, I'd give him another one for free. He finished both-very impressive."