Jersey Freeze Keeps Afloat During Fro-Yo Craze

Having served the community for 60 years, Jersey Freeze owner explains his plans for staying popular during the new self-serve frozen yogurt craze.

This is not the first time that Jersey Freeze has had to contend with a suburban
frozen yogurt craze. The Freehold Township soft-serve ice cream institution, which recently celebrated its 60th anniversary, has weathered this storm before; but this time may be different.

A new business model, self-serve "fro-yo", is all the rage at Yo Mon Yogurt and Let's Yo Yogurt, two frozen yogurt establishments that opened within 16 months and a half-mile of each other on West Main Street.

While the owners of both yogurt establishments tout a "room for everybody" mentality in the marketplace, competition is competition to Bruce Blackmore, long-time owner of the more traditional Jersey Freeze.

Blackmore, whose father, Carlton, opened the shop in 1952, admits that business has gradually been getting slower over the past few years. While some is just economics, Blackmore admits that the fro-yo shops do nip at his heels.

Conversely, the proprietors of Yo Mon and Let's Yo see markets that differ from traditional ice cream's, pointing to their more health-conscious consumer.

"The trend in frozen dessert shows that there is a current migration towards yogurt because of its health benefits," said Pete Chalfin, owner of Let's Yo.

Blackmore says his non-fat and sugar-free options have basically the same properties as yogurt. He also points out that his store offers specialty items such as banana splits and root beer floats that the self-serve places do not. But even sales on those "date-night items" are way down.

"Ten years ago on a Sunday I would sell over 200 root beer floats. Last Sunday I sold 12," said Blackmore.

Perhaps that is because some customers' needs have shifted.

"I have a grandson who has a dairy allergy, and a lot of places don't cater to [that]," said Yo Mon customer Marilyn Cohen, as she and her grandson shared sorbet, a non-milk product.

Dessert is not the only thing that brings consumers through the doors of fro-yo establishments. Social media plays a clear role, evidenced by both stores' online presences as well as the 12 iPads for customer use in Let's Yo.

On his end, Blackmore is considering changes to revitalize Jersey Freeze. His future plans may include moving towards gourmet hard ice cream and adding more indoor seating.

Despite the new trend, Jersey Freeze still has its loyal customer base and an unmatched nostalgia-factor.

"I was born and raised around here, and this has been my favorite ice cream place since I was a kid," said now-grandmother Darlene Vorhees of Howell, as she enjoyed a three-generational ice cream cone with her daughter and grandson.

rick September 25, 2012 at 03:24 PM
I heard rumors that Jersey Freeze wanted to sell and that a restaurant was going to take its place but the residents resisted. So that deal fell thru.
Richard September 25, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Yes, It was going to turned into a Olive Garden. I think Olive Garden got lucky because there new location is perfect for them.
Marc LeVine September 25, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Some of the business "energy" Jersey Freeze once had seems to have left the establishment. I often feel the lack of enery and product creativity when I visit there. For example, Jersey Freeze used to be referred to as the brainchild of a food chemist, who was able to come up with new and interesting flavors. At least, that's what some of the locals used to mention. I see it with the lack of change in the flavor selection in recent years. My favorite JF flavor used to be Bavarian Chocolate (aka: creamy cold and rich frozen chocolate pudding). Haven't seen that flavor there for years. I kind of think that the energy can return if and when JF gets back to its roots and goes back to the future.
Carol September 25, 2012 at 04:53 PM
I was at Jersey Freeze the day it opened. Of course I've visited other ice cream establishments, but still come back to Jersey Freeze. Growing up in the Freehold area, The Freeze was the place and still is the place to go. BTW.....I bought one of the root beer floats on Sunday!!! Just as a PS........never know when you'll The Boss at the Freeze!!
Carol September 25, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Argh..........darn keyboard again.........never know when you'll SEE The Boss at the Freeze. Mark, How can JF get back to it's roots and go back to the future?
Marc LeVine September 25, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Hi Carol: Their strength - as we remember it - was creating new and exciting flavors. Gourmet Hard Ice cream is NOT what Jersey Freeze is known for. THAT is not the answer. Leave that to Ice Cream on 9. They do THAT best. JF needs to constantly mix up their SOFT flavor offerings. Today's kids taste buds bore very easily (there are too many tasty food choices out there)...how about soft, blue rasberry...how about some new halloween flavors like Ghostly Marshmellow, Passionate Pumpkin and Devils Red Velvet, etc. Rita's excels in water ice because it keeps churning out new and exciting flavors like Swedish Fish, Peeps, etc. Where's the energy? JF is the leader of the soft ice cream world and was once featured on the Food Channel. But, THAT was years ago. Let's see some new flavors. And, bring back my Bavarian Chocolate! :)
Eric Malpica September 25, 2012 at 08:27 PM
the prices @ Jersy Freeze are way up. The price of their burgers is outrageous. That's why their business has slowed. They woul ddo better to draw in the dinner crowd & they will stay for dessert.
Lizzie Gordon September 25, 2012 at 11:44 PM
We did the Yogurt thing once or twice, but prefer Jersey Freeze. By the time you add in all the fixin's at the Yogurt Bars, Jersey Freeze is healthier; simpler and cheaper. I couldn't see indulging in such yogurt gluttony more than once or twice a year. Add in the history and the grounds and I hope JF stays around for my grandkids to enjoy.
Team Sheen September 26, 2012 at 01:05 AM
How often do u go there - had Bavarian Choc recently - I like it w/toasted coconut. Anyway, when u hear a business is selling - Ofcourse some momentum gets lost. PS try running Swedish fish through a soft serve machine & you'll break a 10k machine. Kids like toppings which answers ur flavor issue. Also - worry about their cheese sauce which I immediately alerted their mgr. @ the change. Katie is heat and was gracious when explains they discontinued the product. Hate to bloviate like some but the record should be set straight. Just Bcuz ur an eater - doesn't make u a restaurateur. Just sayin....
Team Sheen September 26, 2012 at 01:06 AM
Katie is great not heat - sorry for misspelling
Aron Weiss September 26, 2012 at 12:07 PM
JF is still the best. All others are fads, they will fade away. Suggest JF gets some perky people to work for them, this summer's crew were blah and did not appear like they wanted to work at JF.....Hang in their GOOD LUCK!!!!!
Susan Greitz September 26, 2012 at 01:43 PM
I believe there are many factors that are contributing to sales dropping at JF, but I just went to the Bruce concert Wednesday night, and if Mr. Blackmore could capitalize on Springsteen's stories about his visits to JF, which something like 50,000+ people have heard at least once, I bet he'd move the needle. I would suggest posting on social media for one thing.


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