By COLIN M. STEWART
Tribune-Herald staff writer
When Hilo-area couple Robert and Huixian Parsons and their partner, Laurie Robertson, were looking to open a business in Hilo, frozen yogurt quickly presented itself as a market that begged to be addressed in East Hawaii.
“We spent time to try to see what people want,” said Huixian Parsons, who oversees the day-to-day operations at Sophia’s Yogurt Bar. “We saw downtown Hilo had nothing like that. We did some research. … We liked Pinkberry originally, but it was $.5 million for a franchise.”
Instead, the group opted to strike out on their own, ultimately founding Sophia’s, named after the Parsons’ 2-year-old daughter.
Located on Keawe Street at the corner of Furneaux Lane, the brightly decorated shop has been in operation for about three weeks now. It features five large, metallic frozen yogurt dispensers — each with two different flavors and the option to swirl them together. The dispensers are set low to the ground — low enough for keiki to access the machines — into a brightly colored wall of tiles.
“It’s fun,” Parsons said. “People have fun doing it themselves.”
The clientele are encouraged to mix and match any of the 10 flavors available on a given day — the owners are still experimenting to see which flavors strike a chord with area taste buds, she said. The flavors on display last week included Sea Salt Caramel Pretzel, Blueberry Tart, Taro, Caribbean Colada, Strawberry Sensations, and Candy Bar Smash.
In addition to the yogurt, there’s a full array of fruits purchased at the Hilo Farmer’s Market, candies, nuts and other fixings to add color and flavor to any treat.
The yogurt is sold by weight — 45 cents per ounce — so once customers have filled their cups up with any combination that meets their hearts’ desires, their treats are weighed at the counter. Parsons says the average customer spends between $3 and $4 on a cup of yogurt.
In addition to the affordable nature of their product, Parsons says that frozen yogurt offers an distinct advantage against other treats like ice cream.
“It has health benefits,” she said. “The yogurt has five active cultures, which help with digestion.”
Each flavor placard includes the symbols “LF” or “NF,” denoting yogurt with “low fat” or “no fat,” she added.
Sophia’s Yogurt Bar can be found at 277 Keawe St. or on Facebook.
Hours of operation are 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sundays.
Email Colin M. Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org.