Thursday, August 30, 2007

CBGBs - Final Nail in the ...

I suppose most of you have heard that Hilly Kristal, founder and owner of CBGBs passed away this week, finally and sadly succumbing to lung cancer at the age of 75. There had been discussions that the venue would be moving to Las Vegas, and perhaps that could still happen, but without the originator's involvement, it will merely become another Hard Rock Cafe. The fact that not only CBGBs closed, but also a CBGBs store now exists on St. Mark's is the first indication that this will certainly be its destiny. And St. Mark's is becoming Haight-Ashbury anyway, just a capitalist shrine to something that once was. People clamoring to buy a fake artifact in a futile attempt to gain an identity, which actually becomes a group identity among a group that has none.

Watch this clip of Johnny Rotten from his short-lived Rotten Television show for further similar insight:

Labor Day Weekend Shopping

I will try to do some shopping this weekend - maybe even off of this long skinny island that I call home.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Joe Junior: Cheap, Fast, Halfway Decent

Joe Junior is one of those old-school diners that I pray nightly does not get taken over by a faux diner chain. It's a greasy spoon that dishes up full breakfasts for peanuts.

Now, it's not exactly gourmet - or anywhere near it - however, it does the job in a no-nonsense way allowing you to feed yourself and be on your merry way. The other day I had eggs, toast, hashbrowns and cranberry juice for less than $8 - this including tax and tip. What a bargain.

There's one on 6th Ave. and 12th St., another on 3rd Ave. around 16th St. (pictured) - providing us with west side AND east side options!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Les Nanas: The Parisian Invasion




This weekend was one of those times that I wished I had some kind of wedding-banquet-charity ball to attend because I found a killer dress that should be on the cover of French Vogue, if not on my body. However, lucky for you gals it's still available at Les Nanas de Gramercy. I found out that there are only four "Balerine" by Nana Baila available - one in each size (1, 2, 3, 4) for about $325+. This slate-coloured dress is made from a polyester/viscose blend and features intricate leather trim. It must be seen and tried on to be thoroughly respected as the work of art that it is.

I was also taken by the red uber-stylish sweater jacket from Maillili you see pictured here, as well as the turquoise-iridescent jacket styled for whomever is up to the task of wearing and pairing them with the right skirt/dress/pants, because that's the kind of respect these pieces demand!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Shop-A-Matic

I just got this email from New York magazine yesterday about their new Shop-A-Matic service, and I have to say it's pretty cool - they've basically become our personal shoppers. They really are trying to put me out of business!

So after doing a little bit of looking around on this, it seems that Urban Outfitters is the spot to buy fun and inexpensive housewares. I will have to do my own investigating to make sure.

Dear Fashion Alerts reader, Have you ever wished you could shop New York from home? Now you can, at Shop-A-Matic. This summer, New York editors scoured the city for unique home-d├ęcor products in ten categories: chairs, sofas, beds, rugs, pillows, lamps, coffee tables, dining tables, bookshelves, and mirrors. We photographed almost 1,000 items, from a $200 paisley Urban Outfitters chair to a $110,000 Joaquim Tenreiro dining table at R 20th Century. Now you can search those items. Looking for a black coffee table? We've got sixteen. A Scandinavian bookshelf? We've got five. And because many of the stores we visited—from high-design Madison Avenue showrooms to hip Brooklyn boutiques—don't have Websites that display their merchandise, many of the products we found cannot be viewed elsewhere on the Internet. In the coming months, Shop-A-Matic will expand to include fashion and accessories. We hope that it will become an invaluable resource for you.

Try Shop-A-Matic now at http://nymag.com/shopamatic.
Ben Williams Editorial Director, NYMag.com

Thursday, August 23, 2007

WSJ: Wearing Those Vintage Sneakers With Style

Cute little ditty from The Wall Street Journal on vintage sneakers....


Style -- Tricks of the Trade: Wearing Those Vintage Sneakers With Style
By Amy Chozick
23 August 2007
The Wall Street Journal

Christopher Vidal has more than 400 pairs of sneakers crowding his New York City apartment. He makes sure to wear each pair -- if only once.
But Mr. Vidal, who serves as an in-house expert for Flight Club, a sneaker-consignment shop with locations in New York and Los Angeles and a store opening soon in Tokyo, says there's more to wearing a great pair of sneakers than just slipping them on. He believes in creating a whole outfit from the feet up. "The whole key to an outfit depends on your kicks," Mr. Vidal says, using the common slang word for limited-edition and vintage sneakers.
The 34-year-old Mr. Vidal grew up in Brooklyn in the 1980s and became obsessed with skateboarding and street fashion. When he's picking out a pair of sneakers to wear today, he likes to hark back to that period. He says you can't go wrong with a pair of Nike Air Force One basketball shoes that first came out in 1982 and are now hot items among sneaker aficionados. "This is not a comfortable shoe, but it's become a keepsake," Mr. Vidal says.
The secret to picking out the right pair of shoes is to "rock a pair that no one else will be wearing," Mr. Vidal says. To differentiate the rare from the run-of-the-mill, he does research on the Internet, reads collector magazines and corresponds with fellow sneaker fans in Japan, where hip kicks are coveted.
After he's selected a unique pair, Mr. Vidal intentionally tones down his outfit in order to draw attention to his feet. Recently, Mr. Vidal wore a pair of gray-speckled (aka "elephant-print") Nike Black Cement Three sneakers last produced in 2001 -- which can now fetch more than $600 -- with a white V-neck T-shirt and Swagger X Levi's 503 jeans. "That's a hard shoe to get, so I knew it would get me attention," says Mr. Vidal, who paid $110 for the shoes six years ago and has kept them "on ice" in the box ever since.
He also tries not to match his shoes and his clothes. This makes the sneakers "pop," he says. For instance, he may pair bright yellow or fire-engine red sneakers with a single-breasted black suit. Canvas high-tops by Converse or red and black checkered Vans are also a good choice for a suit.
When it comes to everyday wear, straight-legged and relaxed-fit jeans go well with any sneakers, Mr. Vidal says. Tapered jeans should be worn with sleek running shoes like vintage Pumas or New Balance.
The cuff of the jeans should not be too long. "You don't want jeans to get caught under the shoe," Mr. Vidal says, or you'll ruin your jeans.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Curry in a Hurry LIVES!

Several months ago I wrote about how Curry in a Hurry was closed for an undetermined / unannounced amount of time. I communicated my dismay...because when you are in a hurry, this 28th St. and Lex Ave. hot-spot provides you with a variety of curries, quickly.

Well it reopened a little while ago, but since I don't live in the 'hood at present, I haven't been able to frequent it like I used to. Which is probably a good thing since it's not exactly "health food." Why is it that I think if fast food is "ethnic" that it is good for me and not fattening like pizza or McDonald's?

Anyway, I don't know why C in a H was closed, and I could not tell if any real changes had been made, but notice that the "Best N.Y.C. Indian Buy" line has been "blued" out on the top floor window shade thingy. So either the prices went up or the quality of food went down. I'll put my money on the former. If I have any left.

Oh Curry in a Hurry!, I kid, I kid.

xoxox GSNYC

Monday, August 20, 2007

Something for the Boys: British Shirts

...from The Wall Street Journal:

Corporate News
U.K. shirt makers collar American buyers --- Deeper push in U.S. plugs higher quality with costlier features
By Ray A. Smith
20 August 2007
The Wall Street Journal

JASON RUSSELL of Provo, Utah, recently opened his mailbox and found something unfamiliar: a catalog from British clothier Charles Tyrwhitt.
Flipping through it, he was flummoxed by some of the descriptions, including "cutaway collars" and "170s." That didn't stop him from buying two shirts that cost $100 each. "They just feel classy," he says.
The march of British shirt makers into New York and Los Angeles is spreading deeper into the U.S. Thomas Pink is scouting locations in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Scottsdale, Arizona, and plans to open stores in Las Vegas and the Boston suburb of Natick, Massachusetts, in the next year. Paul Smith is looking at sites in Chicago and San Francisco, and Turnbull & Asser plans to open outposts in cities such as Dallas.
While the British invasion means more choices, it also is forcing customers to learn a new shirt vocabulary, with phrases such as "double cuffs" (the British term for French cuffs) and "Sea Island quality" cotton (a fine grade usually grown in the Caribbean) in store displays and catalogs. Makers say they have found that these Britishisms can convey a sense of class to a U.S. audience. "To some American customers, it's intriguing," says Justin Metcalf, president of Charles Tyrwhitt U.S.
For men shopping for dress shirts, it can also mean squeezing into a tighter fit. British shirts are cut closer to the body: A "classic fit" Charles Tyrwhitt shirt fits the way an American brand's "slim fit" shirt would. British shirts tend to have spread collars, compared to the long, pointy versions on many American shirts. They also come in less conservative colors, with unusual shades like orange and pistachio, and bold patterns of checks and plaids that can seem loud by American office standards.
But the Brits are also reshaping the economics of dress shirts in the U.S. by charging more for features that they say add up to better construction and durability. Charles Tyrwhitt's shirts, for instance, are made with gussets -- extra layers of cloth inserted at the lower side seams, for reinforced strength -- they start at $99, while Brooks Brothers' entry-level dress shirts are $79.50.
Most British makers also use single-needle stitching for the seams, which is considered sturdier and cleaner-looking than the two-needle stitching found in some American-brand shirts. And Brits typically use a "split yoke" construction for the back of a shirt: They cut the fabric in half, and then sew it up the middle, to allow for more freedom of movement around the shoulder. The yokes of basic American shirts are often left in one piece. Thomas Pink shirts, which have gussets and split yokes, start at $150.
Some tailors say these features don't necessarily produce a longer-lasting shirt. New York custom tailor Alan Flusser says that while touches such as gussets and split yokes drive up the price of a shirt because of the time and handwork involved, they don't always make the shirt more durable.
He adds that double-needle stitching has improved so much over the years that these days it will serve a customer as well as a single-needle stitch. "The seams won't look as nice, but a good double needle will hold up just as well," he says.
A representative of Turnbull & Asser says the gusset strengthens the seam where the shirt's tail and front meet -- a natural spot for wear and tear for many men.
Brett Rogoff, 33 years old, of New York says he is a convert to British shirts because he likes their slimmer fit. In the past, he says, "I couldn't buy shirts off the rack without them having to be tailored. The waist area was always too big." Now he wears shirts from Charles Tyrwhitt (pronounced "tirrit," the company's Web site says) and Thomas Pink.
The British brands say they see an opportunity in the U.S. market in part because sales of luxury goods here are booming. Sales of men's dress shirts costing $100 and up at department stores rose 33% in the 12 months ended June 30 compared with a 2% decline for shirts priced below $100, according to market researcher NPD Group. Jeff Blee, merchandise manager of men's furnishings at Brooks Brothers, says 30% of the retailer's dress-shirt business is in the $100-and-up category compared with 10% five years ago.
The U.K. luxury market is also doing well, but the makers say the shirt market there is saturated. The U.S. gives these brands a market where they can grow with less British competition.
American labels have been making some changes to their shirts -- a move they say is partly in response to increased competition from the Brits. Brooks Brothers and Ike Behar are starting to offer Sea Island cotton shirts, priced at $275 and $295, respectively. The cotton is considered particularly fine, and it is known for its strength and luster. They are also expanding their made-to-measure programs to compete in the luxury market.
Ike Behar says it has started adding gussets to its entry-level shirts in the past few years as well. It has also raised the yarn count of its entry-level shirts, from 80s and 100s to 120s. (The figure refers to the number of times the yarn is spun -- the higher the number, the finer the yarn.) British makers such as Thomas Pink have drawn attention to the issue of yarn count in shirts in recent years, marketing their luxury shirts with labels such as "170s."
As American labels are upgrading, they are also pushing up their prices in some cases. At Brooks Brothers, for example, prices for all levels of shirts have risen this summer by $5 to $17.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Alexander McQueen & Samsonite: Perfect Together

There is nothing quite like mixing high brow, often verging on bizarre, style with the epitome of middle-of-the-road. Not even I could have imagined a more perfect pairing than Alexander McQueen and Samsonite. I wonder if they will have gorillas (or...guerillas?) in the commercials...we can only hope and pray.

Social-Climbing Samsonite Seeks More Elegant Image
By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan
17 August 2007

The Wall Street Journal

Earlier this year, Alexander McQueen, the British designer known for outlandish fashions, introduced a new collection in the U.S. But rather than showing a dress stained with baked clay, as he has done in the past, Mr. McQueen presented something even more unexpected: a line of luggage for Samsonite Corp.
Yes, Samsonite. The $1.1 billion luggage and travel-accessories company best known for sturdy and functional suitcases, is trying to reinvent itself as a sexy, high-end label.
In a bid to become a player in the booming luxury-goods market, the 97-year-old luggage maker, based in Mansfield, Mass., is diversifying its products, changing its advertising and making acquisitions. It hopes the overhaul will help shoppers forget its muscular image: hard-shelled bags so tough that ads bragged they were "Strong enough to stand on."
In addition to Mr. McQueen's edgy designs, such as a $750 suitcase on wheels designed to look like a human rib cage, Samsonite has also signed on actress Christina Ricci to be its first Hollywood spokeswoman. The company also recently launched a line of high-end men's shoes. Sunglasses and stationery are in the works.
Samsonite is taking its brand upmarket in hopes of emulating the success of other well-established brands that were able to modernize their images and appeal to a fashionable customer. "The companies I admire are Burberry, Coach," says Chief Executive Marcello Bottoli, who joined Samsonite in 2004 from Louis Vuitton and is the mastermind behind the brand overhaul. "Both were companies that had a long history and managed to make it in the fashion industry."
Samsonite's potential as a global luxury brand is what led private-equity firm CVC Capital Partners, to agree to buy the money-losing company last month for $1.7 billion from private-equity investors Ares Management LLC, Bain Capital Partners LLC and the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan; the three sellers together own about 85% of Samsonite's common stock. The deal is expected to be finalized in October.
CVC plans to expand Samsonite's retail presence in emerging markets such as Russia, India and China. It plans to leave current management in place and continue pursuing the move upmarket that Mr. Bottoli began in 2004. "Moving the business upscale raises awareness of the brand," says Nick Clarry, managing director of CVC's United Kingdom team. "If consumers see an amazing [luxury] bag by Samsonite, it gives them confidence that Samsonite can deliver on customers' aspirations."
But Samsonite faces daunting challenges before it can transform its image into a luxury brand. Branding experts say its biggest obstacle is its name. "It's not a very alluring name at all," says Alan Siegel, chief executive of Manhattan-based strategic-branding company Siegel + Gale. "Samsonite shoes' makes you think of Florsheim, a durable, sturdy midpriced shoe that's not particularly stylish -- certainly not Prada."
Even company executives acknowledge the uphill battle they face. "We have quite a hard image to break away from," says Quentin Mackay, the company's global creative director. "People still think of that hard, plastic suitcase when they think of Samsonite."
To rebrand itself, Samsonite has started adding star power to its advertising. While its ads used to emphasize the functional aspects of its luggage, the company has been featuring celebrities such as British tycoon Richard Branson, race-car driver Danica Patrick and actress Isabella Rossellini in ads in fashion magazines like Vogue.
It has also begun sending actresses such as Sarah Jessica Parker and Cameron Diaz luggage, hoping they will carry it and be photographed, influencing hip, young customers. Indeed, Star magazine recently ran a paparazzi shot of Ms. Ricci traveling with a Samsonite suitcase.
The company also plans to expand its stores with a new upscale-retail concept called "Samsonite Black Label." Since last fall, Samsonite has opened 30 of the new stores world-wide, including London, Hong Kong and Dubai -- to date, it has 45 such stores. The stores sell Samsonite's $225-to-$395 men's and women's shoes and Black Label products, pieces from the new McQueen collection and custom-made bags, ranging in price from $450 to $7,000. That's a big increase from Samsonite's price range of $100 to $500 for luggage.
Last year, Samsonite acquired a majority interest in Lambertson Truex, a high-end leather-goods maker co-designed by former Gucci design director Richard Lambertson. This spring, in New York City, Samsonite opened Lambertson's first retail store and next month will be opening a second New York store, with plans for two or three more stores next year.
Founded in Denver in 1910 by trunk salesman Jesse Shwayder, the company initially was called the Shwayder Trunk Manufacturing Co. and one of its first suitcases was named "Samson."The company was renamed Samsonite in 1966 and now manufactures and sells products in department stores and in almost 600 of its own stores and franchised retail stores globally.
Its brands include Samsonite, American Tourister and Lambertson Truex. It also manufactures luggage under license for Lacoste and Timberland.
Mr. Bottoli was brought in by the previous investor group to overhaul the company's image in 2004. At the time, Samsonite was struggling after various ownership changes and four years of net losses totaling $285.3 million in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It also took a hit in 2001 after lenders pulled out of a refinancing pact following the travel slump after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The company's stock in 2001 plummeted to under $1 after the attacks, down from a high of $50 a share in the late 1990s.
U.S. sales of luggage still haven't fully recovered since the attacks. Industry sales dropped nearly 8% to $2.03 billion in 2001 from 2000, according to the Travel Goods Association, an industry group. Last year, U.S. luggage sales were slightly more than $1.9 billion. Mr. Bottoli notes that since the U.S. accounted for only about 40% of Samsonite's sales in 2001, the company wasn't hurt as much as it could have been.
As part of his overhaul, Mr. Bottoli hired Mr. Mackay, former creative director of London-based leather-goods maker Tanner Krolle, in 2005 as the company"s first creative director. Mr. Bottoli also formed a new design team in London to focus on designing luggage from a fashion standpoint rather than purely a technical one. In 2006, Samsonite signed on trendy British designer Matthew Williamson to design a limited edition line of luggage.
Mr. Bottoli says the brand's efforts are beginning to pay off. Sales for the fiscal year ended Jan. 31, 2007, were $1.1 billion, a 10.7% increase from the $966.9 million in sales the year before.
Last year, the company had a net loss of $6.8 million compared with net income of $13.3 million in fiscal 2006. Mr. Bottoli blames the losses on payment of a $175 million dividend last year and higher costs associated with refinancing the company's debt.
Before Samsonite becomes a luxury brand, it will have to win over customers like Heather Lapham. The 30-year-old Manhattan-based financial controller travels for work two to four times a month and says she was surprised to hear that Samsonite has started to make shoes and is branching out into sunglasses.
"If I was spending a few hundred dollars on sunglasses, I'd go buy Tom Ford. I think that's a luxury brand," she says. "When I think Samsonite, I think 'sturdy.'"

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Haven: Wax on; Wax off

The following is from yesterday's New York magazine's Best Bets. I have actually been going to Haven for years...so this seems worth checking out...if you have Tuesdays off:

You have two Tuesdays left to book your appointment for Haven's Gourmet Tuesdays, which feature gourmet wax jobs for the price of the standard honey; a Brazilian bikini is now $40.
When: 8/21 and 8/28; call for spa hours.
Where: 150 Mercer St., at Prince St. (212-343-3515).

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

And even more PINKBERRY!

I am a huge dork for not getting a photo of it, but it may be the motivating factor that gets me to hang on to my old apartment - if they EVER rebuild it. PINKBERRY IS COMING TO THIRD AVENUE BETWEEN 25TH AND 26TH STREETS.

Tell everyone! The Swirly Goodness is coming to GreyBox - the neighborhood without a name between Gramercy Park and Murray Hill. I also like to call it Upper Downtown.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

SPAM FAJITAS

Is this the grossest thing EVER? There was a little adlink for this inspiring recipe in my Spam box on gmail. Perhaps it should also get linked to "weight loss" because I have suddenly lost my appetite (for destruction):

* Exported from MasterCook *
SPAM FAJITAS
Serving Size : 8
Preparation Method
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 1 Green bell pepper, cut into -julienne strips
  • 1/2 Onion, cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 1 cn SPAM Luncheon Meat, cut into -julienne strips (12 oz)
  • 3/4 c CHI-CHI's Salsa
  • 8 Flour tortillas, warmed (8")
  • 2 c Shredded lettuce
  • 1/2 c Shredded hot pepper Monterey-Jack or Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 c Nonfat plain yogurt
  • Extra salsa, if desired
Spray large non-stick skillet with vegetable cooking spray. Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Saute green pepper and onion 2 minutes. Add SPAM. Saute 2 minutes. Stir in salsa and heat thoroughly. Spoon about 1/2 cup SPAM mixture into each flour tortilla. Top each with 1/2 cup shredded lettuce, 1 tablespoon shredded cheese, 1 tablespoon yogurt, and extra salsa, if desired.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Loro Piana Catalog

I received the ultimate catalog last week at work - I'm not sure why it came to me in the office, but it looked like the most expensive wedding invitation I had ever received. I opened the envelope and found the Loro Piana "Estratto Fotografico Autunno-Inverno 2007-2008" catalog. I have not been in the NYC store yet, which is located on Madison near 68th St., but I have to say that from the catalog each piece pretty much looks like a timeless classic. There are no prices, which also leads me to believe that each piece probably costs as much as a priceless classic, but if you are in the money, I suggest paying particular attention to this brand.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Boots n Skirts in August

I know this look is what all kids are wearing downtown. But apparently now it's what some of the women are wearing uptown. Remember ladies: just because it's a trend doesn't mean it looks good on you!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

BlueFly Don't Bother Me

Madre GorEEEya has imparted the following bit of wisdom:

"Maybe you're interested to know that Bluefly.com is having their semi-annual Bluesale with savings of up to 70% on selected styles of top designer stuff - got a postcard today - you could check it out."

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Rocky Sullivan's Moves to Red Hook

Rocky Sullivan's of Lexington Avenue between 28th-29th Sts. has closed, and I have the photo to prove it. This divey Irish pub that I used to drop in on once in a great while featured the standard pub stuff (e.g. beer) as well as readings from known authors, such as Sam Lipsyte who read from The Subject Steve...or was it Home Land...or Venus Drive?

Anyway, it has now moved onto browner pastures in Red Hook, Brooklyn. No doubt because it couldn't afford to live in Manhattan anymore. I have no information to back that statement up, it's just an educated guess.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Last Stop Recording & Rehearsal

It may be outside of the City - but only 35 minutes - so if you need to rock...or sing...or feed your inner audio beast, you should visit Last Stop Recording & Rehearsal in Orangeburg, NY. Just a quick jaunt across the GWB, head north and then let Kevin take care of you the way he was born to do. A music tech extraordinaire, he's also the son of an OBGYN so you know he's nice to the ladies as well.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Police

This really has little to do with shopping, well maybe except for the part where my friend got $103 Police tickets for $44 each on eBay, but Sting is hot and sounds amazing.

Friday, August 03, 2007

GS is "Featured Blog" on SpreeNewYork!

From the geniuses at SpreeNewYork, who are obviously on the bleeding edge of blogging:
Scroll down a little bit to: Jill Anderson Wearable Wedding Wear and voila!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Convoluted Sale at La Boutique Resale

...but a sale nevertheless!

La Boutique Resale, a resale consignment shop where I have scored some fab duds, is having their Summer Clearance Blowout Sale now through August 31, when prices will be slashed up to 70%. If you get "the postcard" you can also take an additional 10% off of your total purchase...um...excluding 60%, 70%, and over 70% off items; excluding all handbags...oh and wait...not to be combined with other coupons/offers. Hang on...10% off taken after all other deductions calculated. Phew. Talk about disclaimers!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Pinkberry makes the Financial Times

I think this means that Pinkberry is big-doin's...business-wise. Watch for the IPO.

By Jonathan Birchall
Published: August 1 2007 03:00 Last updated: August 1 2007 03:00

Just after 11 o'clock at night at the Pinkberry frozen yoghurt store on Manhattan's Eighth Avenue, a young woman was pleading unsuccessfully to be let in as staff members prepared to shut for the night. "It's for my friend," she begged. "He's never had one."
Earlier that evening, the line of customers had stretched outside the store, with a cross section of the young and hip who populate the Chelsea neighbourhood waiting to order one of the two available flavours of tart yoghurt - plain or green tea - with a range of toppings both healthy and indulgent.
Frozen yoghurt is not new to the US where it emerged as a supposedly more healthy alternative to ice-cream in the 1980s. But with 40 outlets around Los Angeles and three so far in New York, the rapid growth of Pinkberry is leading a yoghurt revival that is rooted in an unusual blend of cross-cultural exchange and entrepreneurship.
In southern California, Pinkberry's ability to attract crowds since it was founded there in 2005 has spawned a host of imitators, such as Snowberry, IceBerry,Berri Good and Kiwiberri. In Manhattan, Zabar's, the gourmet supermarket, has launched a "Za-berry" yoghurt bar.
The Pinkberry chain was launched by Shelly Hwang, a Korean who came to the US to study business at the University of Southern California, and her partner Young Lee, a Korean-American who moved to the US with hisfamily as a child.
Ms Hwang's first venture was aimed at opening a small restaurant serving a "high tea" concept in West Hollywood and it failed. She says she was given the idea of frozen yoghurt - using a newer, more tart recipe and fresh fruit toppings - by Mr Lee, a former student of the Parsons school of design in New York.
Mr Lee had the idea of making store design central to the brand's identity. To achieve a higher, premium price, the "old idea repackaged in a new way", as he calls it, had to undergo a Starbucks-like transformation. The sales counter of traditional plain frozen yoghurt outlets was out. The approach emulates the attention to design detail that took the Seattle coffee-store chain worldwide.
"I wanted people to have a department store experience rather than a grocery store experience," he says. "It's a chore to go the grocery but a luxury to go to a department store."
The stores have an acrylic glass and stainless steel retro look, with a heavy Phillippe Starck influence. The mood, which deliberately refers back to the frozen yoghurt heyday of the 1980s, is reinforced by the use as background music of remixed hits by bands of the period such as Spandau Ballet.
To create Pinkberry's stylish brand identity they also brought in Yolanda Santosa, a Hollywood designer responsible for credit sequences for the feature film 300 and the Desperate Housewives television series. And in a tribute to the 1980s, they commissioned a song, "Sorry Ice Cream, I'm going to Pinkberry", from Lady Tigra, who as a member of pop group L'Trimm had a hit with "Cars that Go Boom" in 1988.
"I hate to use the word hip," Mr Lee says. "But for $5 you getsomething which is very unique . . . you get 15 minutes of feeling cool and hip."
Pinkberry's founders insist that the idea grew out of Mr Lee's own experiences - that he had the idea after visiting Vienna in 1985 and tasting gelato-style frozen yoghurt, followed by a trip to Hawaii where he sampled fresh pineapple and soft-serve ice-cream.
But Pinkberry's growth in the US also follows the expansion of frozen yoghurt outlets during the past five years in South Korea.
There, the growth in popularity of frozen yoghurt does not have traditional roots. Instead it has been fuelled by a national interest in wellness and "functional" food choices that mirrors consumer sentiments in the US. Heinz, after all, stresses the presence in its tomato ketchup of lycopene (a red pigment said to help prevent cancer) and Twinings boasts of the antioxidant powers of its teas.
Red Mango, one of Korea's largest frozen yoghurt chains, this summer opened its first store in Los Angeles, pointedly calling itself "the original healthy frozen yoghurt". The company, founded by a Korean entrepreneur, Roni Kim, opened its first store in Korea in 2003, and has expanded to 130 locations. It has also spawned a host of imitators, including Yoguteria and Babyyogurt.
Mr Lee and Ms Hwang say the fact that they are part of the -Korean-American community has not been a significant factor in the chain's expansion, except perhaps indirectly. Their area developerfor the New York area is Dai Hwan Choi, a college friend of Mr Lee.
"The Korean community has helped us in a very ironic way," says Mr Lee. "They copied us and used the word 'berry' a lot - Iceberry, Snowberry and so on."
Pinkberry so far has been entirely self-funded. Mr Lee will not give overall sales figures but the business has an operating margin of 4.8 per cent and a gross profit margin of 20 per cent, he says. Each store serves at least 1,600 customers a day.
Pinkberry's path to success has not been without its hurdles. Recently it fell foul of California's stringent laws when it was discovered that the product did not meet the state's definition of what constitutes yoghurt, as set down by the department of food and agriculture. In response Pinkberry removed all references to frozen yoghurt from its website.
So far most of the stores are operated by the owners, who are wary of franchising before they have established the chain's reputation. But after being deluged by about 3,000 franchising applications, Mr Lee and Ms Hwang have selected eight for future national expansion. New stores are planned in Las Vegas, Florida and Arizona. A first UK outlet is planned for London's Canary Wharf. They are not interested in selling the chain.
Mr Lee insists that this willnot prove to be a short-lived craze. "To me it's not a fad, because our first store opened two-and-a-half years ago and people are still going back for more."
And while the frozen yoghurt craze of the 1980s faded, its main protagonists survived. TCBY frozen yoghurt, founded in 1981 and owned by Mrs Fields Famous Brands, has more than 1,000locations across the US. ICBY, founded in 1978, has more than 1,000 outlets and is owned by Canada's Yogen Fruz.
And Tasti D-Lite, a New York chain of 60 stores launched in 1987, was sold by its founders to a private equity firm in February. Its new chief executive says he "intends to make Tasti D-Lite the number-one 'good-for-you' frozen dessert in the world".
Those walking Manhattan's streets in search of a late-night fix of frozen yoghurt may soon have more options.
Pinkberry's green tea flavour is not the only Asian-influenced fast food dessert concept tickling US taste buds.
Having originated in Japan, the Beard Papa chain is making waves with its European-style cream puffs (right), which began life in a bakery in Osaka. Beard Papa already has more than 200 stores in Asia, 20 in Hawaii and California, and six on the US east coast, with locations in prime shopping malls. The company's global expansion plans include the UK and Brazil.
However, past examples suggest that crazes of this kind do not always stay in vogue. In the late 1990s, Los Angelenos started drinking sweet "bubble tea" with tapioca balls, a drink that had originated earlier in the decade in Taiwan. Demand for the drink led to the creation of three small US chains - Lollicup, Q-Cups and Tapioca Express - all founded by west coast-based Chinese-American entrepreneurs.
Today bubble tea can be found in Chinatowns in many parts of the world, including London, Paris and Sydney, but the taste for "boba" tapioca balls has not spread far beyond Asian communities.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007