FENWICK ISLAND — While it is becoming popular in other parts of the nation, there’s a noticeable lack of self-serve frozen yogurt shops on the Eastern Shore. One Fenwick couple has decided to change that.
“When we started, no one was doing it,” said Mike Robel, who along with his wife Karen, owns HaHa’s frozen yogurt in Fenwick Island, Del.
The restaurant, which held its grand opening festivities last Thursday, features five self-serve stations, each with two flavors, which customers are encouraged to mix. Most of the flavors are rotated about every 10 days, though Karen Robel said some traditional flavors will probably be permanent fixtures.
“We’re always going to have vanilla and chocolate,” she said.
She added that HaHa’s will try to keep a sorbet and a sugar-free flavor on tap at all times. But with the rest of the selections, the Robels plan on experimenting.
“We’re working on what people want,” said Mike Robel, who mentioned that the shop had more than 100 total flavor options.
The flavors come in a wide-variety, many of which aren’t what most customers typically expect when they walk into a frozen yogurt shop. For example, Mike Robel explained that red velvet cake is becoming a popular option. As of the writing of this article, that flavor shared wall space with choices like chocolate banana, New York Cheesecake and tart green tea. One thing that all of the flavors had in common, however, was that they were all low- or non-fat, with the majority being the later.
“Everybody wants healthy,” said Mike Robel.
In addition to the hundreds of flavor combinations possible, customers are able to liven up their deserts with 30 different toppings and six different sauces, including hot fudge and caramel. According to Mike Robel, the best part about the self-serve style of frozen yogurt is that the customer has total control over what they end up with and its final cost.
Unlike traditional yogurt shops, which operate with fixed prices, usually along the lines of “small, medium and large,” HaHa’s charges by the ounce.
And at 49 cents per ounce, customers can skip the toppings and walk away with a cheap treat, or can load up on all 10 flavors and all 36 additions, if they so desire.
While the Robels confirmed that business has been growing for them every day, they admitted that grabbing people’s attention initially wasn’t that easy.
According to Mike Robel, it’s difficult to convince fans of ice cream to even try frozen yogurt. On top of that, their location in the Village of Fenwick shopping center can be hard to spot. However, the Robels explained that their business is having a ripple effect, bringing in more and more customers just through word of mouth.
“They’re bringing people back,” said Mike Robel of the first patrons to visit the shop.
He also pointed out how much foot traffic flowed past HaHa’s every night, many of whom he says have stopped in for a quick desert and become regular customers.
“We’re trying to make this a destination stop,” said Mike Robel.
For 20 years, the Robels owned a chain of video stores in their home-state of New Jersey. However, they came into HaHa’s with no experience in the food industry.
But in Mike Robel’s opinion, business is business, and the management skills he and his wife picked up in their first venture easily translated to their most recent.
Since they are only a few weeks in their new careers, the Robels aren’t sure exactly where HaHa’s is headed and whether or not it will expand in the future.
“First, we have to get through the summer,” said Mike Robel. “It’s too early to tell yet…we want to see how many people really like us.”