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Do-it-yourself yogurt shops on Long Island

Samantha Verdon, aged 8, helps herself to toppings

Samantha Verdon, aged 8, helps herself to toppings for her self-served frozen yogurt at Yogurt Crazy, located in Huntington. (Oct. 31, 2010) Photo Credit: Photo by Heather Walsh

Call it the most appetizing local cold front: Do-it-yourself frozen yogurt shops are cropping up across Long Island.

The concept is simple: Customers serve themselves, filling cups with their choice of low-fat or nonfat flavors, loading up on toppings and syrups. Finished concoctions are weighed and paid for by the ounce.

Owners say it's all about giving customers control.

"There's nobody behind the counter that's telling you what you can and cannot have," says Nadia Khan, co-owner of YoChi Yogurt in Patchogue. "It gives you control over what you're consuming and how much you're spending."

Besides the handful of shops that have launched locally, Red Mango Inc. - a Dallas-based frozen-yogurt retailer with 165 stores - began offering self-service locations this March and plans to expand to Huntington, Rockville Centre and Stony Brook within a few months, says Red Mango founder Dan Kim.

Custom creations

Variety is the clear upside. Flavors range from pumpkin to red velvet, with toppings such as fresh raspberries and cookie dough.

"It's just so addicting - being able to mix all the different things and not having to pay per topping," says Paige Chernick, 22, of Glen Head, noshing on a concoction of birthday cake and dulce de leche yogurt topped with chocolate crunchies, rainbow cookie pieces, Oreo and graham cracker crumbs at 16 Handles, a DIY yogurt shop in Jericho.

At YoChi, Reanna Murphy, 9, says she enjoyed making her own yogurt cups, adding, "It tastes like ice cream, too."

Her mother, Lynette Murphy, 44, of Patchogue, agrees. "You definitely cannot tell that it's fat-free," she says.

The relatively healthy treat (at least before adding certain toppings) was also part of the appeal for four elementary school teachers recently visiting Yogurt Crazy in Huntington, after walking three miles together.

"You should see how fast we walked so we could get here!" says Karen Fischer, 39, of Huntington, laughing.

The location has been a hot topic of conversation among students who inform teachers of the new flavor of the week, says Kim Schondebare, 47, of Huntington.

Almost on cue, two such students arrived with their parents.

When asked what she liked about Yogurt Crazy, Isabella Fox, 9, of Huntington, pointed to purple swivel chairs nearby. "It looks very cool," she says. "And the delicious ice cream . . . no, I mean yogurt!"

DIY yogurt shops

Moolala Frozen Yogurt

Info: 1664 Merrick Rd., Merrick, 516-442-3577, moolalayogurt.com
Opened: June 2010
Flavors: 12 daily, such as peanut butter and pomegranate-raspberry tart
Toppings: 36, including carob chips and chocolate-covered pretzels
Most popular combo: Pumpkin yogurt (available until Jan. 1) with graham crackers
Cost: 49 cents per ounce
Perks: Customers receive free yogurt (maximum six ounces) on their 10th visit with a frequent customer reward card

YoChi Yogurt

Info: 83 S. Ocean Ave., Patchogue, 631-569-4455, facebook.com/yochiyogurt
Opened: August 2010
Flavors: 4 daily, such as blueberry acai tart and Hershey's Heath Bar
Toppings: 30 (brownie bites and toasted coconut)
Most popular combo: Red velvet yogurt and cheesecake bites
Cost: 49 cents per ounce
Perks: Customers receive $5 off on their 11th visit with YoChi reward card

16 Handles

Info: 22 Jericho Tpke., Jericho, 516-833-6855, 16handles.com
Opened: September 2010
Flavors: 16 daily, such as cookies and cream and New York cheesecake
Toppings: More than 40, including kiwi and crushed rainbow cookies
Most popular combo: Cake batter yogurt with milk chocolate crunch
Cost: 49 cents per ounce
Perks: Personalized yogurt cakes (24 hours notice). Customers receive $4 off on their ninth visit with a stamp card.

Yogurt Crazy

Info: 300 New York Ave., Huntington, 631-629-4533, facebook.com/yogurtcrazy
Opened: October 2010
Flavors: 12 daily, such as chocolate and cake batter
Toppings: 36 (gummy bears, blackberries)
Most popular combo: Vanilla with mixed fresh berries
Cost: 44 cents per ounce
Perks: Customers receive $3 off their 10th visit with a reward card.

*All yogurt shops rotate their flavors on varying schedules.

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