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Sweet-based businesses thrive in a down economy

By: ToLewis, The Press Tribune
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Despite tough economic times, the concept of treating oneself is thriving and owners of “treat-based” businesses are happy to be along for the ride. Nicole Felix, owner of OMG! Frozen Yogurt in Roseville, said that during hard economic times, treat-based businesses like ice cream parlors tend to have staying power. “If you go back even to the Great Depression, ice cream did really well,” Felix said. “It was one thing that people didn’t give up, it was their little treat to make themselves feel better.” Roseville resident Debi Hammond agrees that treat-based businesses are doing well because people are rewarding themselves in different ways. “Instead of going and buying a Prada bag or some really expensive shoes, you might just treat yourself to a yogurt on your way home from work,” Hammond said. “I think that people are tightening their purse strings and looking for ways to enjoy special treats, but at a much greater value.” As president and CEO of Merlot Marketing in Sacramento, Hammond knows a thing or two about tracking trends. “People are looking for great quality at great value,” she said. “And they are doing a little more research.” Felix, who spent 12 years in radio marketing for Disney, said that her frozen yogurt shop attracts a wide variety of folks, and “anybody and everybody” comes into her store looking for sweet treats. “My whole career has been based on demographics,” Felix said. “Working in radio, everything has to do with demographics. I really thought that would be the case with a frozen yogurt shop, but it is not.” In a time where many restaurants and boutique businesses are continuing to close their doors, Felix is expanding. She recently opened her second store, the first one opened in Rocklin in 2010, and she says that operating a business like hers has long been a dream. Tony Morabito, owner of Fresh Berry/Small Cakes on Douglas Boulevard, said his sales figures are up by more than 200 percent over last year. Part of that success, Morabito says, is attributed to the addition of selling cupcakes at the already-established frozen yogurt shop. “People are definitely catching on to what we do,” he said. “The cupcake, quite frankly, saved our business. Without that, I don’t think we would have lasted.” Morabito owns a “fast-casual” Italian delicatessen bakery in El Dorado Hills and says that running the yogurt and cupcake store definitely has its advantages. “Comparatively, this business has better margins,” he said. “We work smart, but not nearly as hard. This is definitely a much easier business to run and maintain.” Morabito says that operating a business like his in a tough economy forces him to work a little harder to become more visible and maintain profit margins. One of his strategies, he says, is selling cupcakes in the neighborhood of just under $3, a price he feels is reasonable and won’t gouge the wallets of his customers. “A couple years ago, I think that people were spending money without really questioning every penny,” Morabito said. “Now-a-days, I think people really make sure they can afford to do what they are doing.” Toby Lewis can be reached at tobyl@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @TobyLewis_RsvPT.