Gofer a goner in Fairfield's frozen treat war
Updated 6:18 am, Monday, October 31, 2011
Gofer Ice Cream, a small chain of ice cream shops in lower Fairfield County, recently closed its Fairfield outlet, citing an overabundance of frozen yogurt and ice cream shops in town.
Six months after Gofer Ice Cream arrived at 1241 Post Road, Pinkberry, a California-based frozen yogurt chain, opened an outlet about a third of a mile to the west at 1512 Post Road. Recently, New York City-based frozen yogurt chain 16 Handles set up shop less than a tenth of a mile to the west at 1300 Post Road and Sweet Rexies, a candy store at 1552 Post Road, has added frozen yogurt to its offerings.
"I think people abandoned us after Pinkberry and 16 Handles," Ragusa said, adding that consumers perceive frozen yogurt as a healthier option to ice cream. "It happens."
In addition, Tasti D-Lite, a New York City-based frozen confection franchise, opened a store in Staples Plaza, joining six ice cream shops already in Fairfield, Ragusa said.
A proliferation of ice cream and yogurt stores within a small area can cause some stores to close as consumers typically visit a limited number of shops for those products, said Lynda Utterback, executive director of the National Ice Cream Retailers Association.
"If you have ice cream store on top of ice cream store on top of frozen yogurt store, someone's going to lose," she said.
Ragusa, a former UBS money manager, opened his first Gofer Ice Cream location in Greenwich in 2003, followed by a second store in Darien in 2004 and a third shop in Stamford in 2005. He opened a Bridgeport outlet shortly after opening the Fairfield location.
The Greenwich shop at one point offered frozen yogurt and later came out with a "Gofer Lite" ice cream, while the Darien location has 10 frozen yogurt flavors, Ragusa said.
The company, which employs about 40 people overall, makes 36 hard ice creams and vanilla and chocolate soft ice creams for its stores at a manufacturing facility in Greenwich. The Fairfield store had about five workers.
The plan is to keep opening more shops despite the closure of the Fairfield store, in addition to offering frozen yogurt at all of the outlets, said Ragusa, who franchised the Greenwich outlet about a year ago.
"We had a little setback here, but we still plan on expanding," he said.