Sunday, August 7, 2011

Blue Penguin frozen yogurt shop latest entrant into New Hope's ice cream wars

Frozen yogurt dispensers at Blue Penguin in New Hope (Photo: Charlie Sahner)

By Charlie Sahner

New Hope is famous for many things, but no one can deny that ice cream is king and competition is fierce. Gerenser's deserves much of the credit, with its pioneering gourmet "exotic" flavors, and survives as a popular establishment to this day. Clusters Bucks County Caramel Corn on West Bridge Street offers gelato, Last Temptation offers the creamy, super-premium Thomas Sweet, and even Little China restaurant has a small freezer with Good Humor bars of dubious age.

Enter Blue Penguin at 15 E. Bridge St., a location that has been home to more than one failed ice cream enterprise. Yes, they're cleaning up during the borough's Friday Night Fireworks shows, but can they survive having opened late in the busy season and with cooler weather just around the corner?

Manager Sang H. Lee thinks so. "We opened later to get it right," he said.

And Blue Penguin's business plan factors in an eight-month selling season at best. So, what's their model for success? Lee believes that having "complete control over the product" will insure quality, while the self-serve model offers simplicity.

He seems spot on with regard to the latter. The customer experience is simple and fun, judging from the random reactions of those trying the product. One simply grabs a cup, pours in frozen yogurt from a wall mounted dispenser, then adds toppings. The finished yogurt snack is then weighed at the checkout counter. Prices typically range in the $3-$4 area, and can easily top $6 if one goes crazy with some of the 36 toppings. And what toppings they are: from pitted cherries, berries, melon and other fruit to chocolate chunks, Rainbow Rice Krispies, nuts, and sprinkles.

The 12 basic yogurt flavors themselves were varied and luscious. One young woman was gushing over her Georgia Peach, and a six-year-old boy went bonkers over Red Velvet Cake, although Lee says Cookies n' Cream has proven the most popular flavor among customers thus far.

So, can Blue Penguin be a major player in the battle to win over New Hope's ice cream lovers?

"This is yogurt, not ice cream," said one outspoken customer from Toms River. "It has healthy bacteria, less fat and tastes great. I'll be back."

Blue Penguin is located at 15 E. Bridge St. near the New Hope-Lambertville free bridge; (215) 693-1748.

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