Mark Byrnes is a former senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
One man copes with the invasion through an anonymous Tumblr.
Change is inevitable. So is froyo.
At least that's how it seems on the anonymously run "... And Now It's a Fucking Froyo Place," a Tumblr that debuted earlier this year. Using Google Street View, the man behind the Tumblr posts screenshots of the way storefronts looked before and since the froyo craze hit a given block.
New Yorkers are no strangers to food trends invading their streetscapes, but something about the froyo plague got to this man. After living in New York for more than a decade, he sees the trend as part of a "mall-ification of the city."
As it did with the Starbucks and fancy cupcake shops that came before, New York may have now reached peak froyo. Shortly after the Tumblr was launched, New York Magazine proclaimed the dessert craze over. Thankfully, unlike in Los Angeles, no NYC shops have been desperate enough to add a "poo" flavor to their froyo repertoire (come on, Yogurt Haven in Eagle Rock).
We caught up via email with the man behind "...And Now It's a Fucking Froyo Place" to get a better sense of his perspective on the frozen yogurt trend and how it has changed his city:
What spurred you to launch the Tumblr? Was there one particular chain or store opening that led you to start this project?
I think it was passing the closed Scalinatella on Bleecker Street with the signs in the window announcing it would become a 16 Handles. This was a chain that I hadn't even heard of probably a year before and suddenly seemed to be everywhere, really cashing in on the self-serve yogurt trend. I said to my boyfriend that I was going to start a Tumblr of before-and-after pictures of all these storefronts. I was half joking until I started doing some Google Street View research and saw just how many there were.
How long have you been living in New York? Can you compare the froyo craze to any previous food trend you noticed around the city previously?
I've lived in the city for 12 years. This definitely stems from the Pinkberry craze from a few years back (which I consider different, if related). Before that, it was cupcakes. Before that, it was Starbucks. It's not limited to food either; someone pointed out that I could do "Now It's a F***ing Chase Bank" with even more examples to pick from. Froyo just happens to be my scapegoat because it's so de rigueur and seems to be a recent and shockingly fast-spreading trend. But it's all part of the mall-ification of the city.
Where have you noticed most of the new froyo places popping up?
I have noticed more froyo places popping up in places like SoHo, the West Village, and Greenwich Village. Whether they're following shopping tourists or NYU kids, I'm not sure. There also seem to be a lot more popping up on the Upper East and Upper West sides, which make sense when you consider the demographics there and how they're changing.
Any parts of the city where you see one and can't believe it, or does the froyo invasion seem universally unavoidable?
There is no resistance; the froyo invasion is unavoidable. I can't say I've been shocked by the appearance of one yet. I think any retail space is fair game at this point.
Have any of your own favorite bars, stores, or cafes been replaced by froyo?
Luckily I haven't had a favorite place taken over by yogurt yet (it seems places I like all become banks) and many of my favorite neighborhood restaurants and stores are still hanging on (*crosses fingers*). The Kidrobot store in SoHo did close recently, though, so I feel like that could be a prime target.
The Tumblr most often seems to lament what each froyo joint has replaced. Are there instances where you've found a Pinkberry or Yogurtland and thought, "This actually seems like a good addition to the block"?
I guess to the first part—my goal isn't necessarily to lament everything (though obviously that's the point of view I've adopted), and, as has been pointed out to me, not every one of the closed businesses is a huge loss. I think one was, like, a Mailboxes Etc. and another was some sketchy clothing store in the De Janeiro vein. I don't think too many tears were spilled.
To the second part—I can't really think of an instance where I was excited to see a froyo place open. I have nothing against yogurt, and I'm sure there's some reasonable number [of froyo places] for us to have in the city, but what happens when the trend is over and these places close? Look at all the empty Crumbs storefronts. And they'll sit empty until the landlord gets the quadruple rent they're looking for, because on average that will work out for them. It's not like the independent businesses that were pushed out are going to come back.
Of the ones you've posted so far, is there a "then and now" that best captures the trend or best encapsulates how New York is changing today?
The butcher shop in Brooklyn was particularly sad, if only because it highlights the types of places that add real texture and value to a neighborhood. As far as being representative of the trend, the shoe store on West 8th [street] just shows how things change until a whole microclimate is wiped out. Shoe stores used to be 8th street top to bottom.
I understand that things change, and obviously the market didn't need or want as many shoe stores anymore, but it's still sad. I also think the Lilliput on Lafayette is interesting, if only because they probably took the place of yet another business during the first wave of SoHo gentrification. It just goes to show that this isn't anything new, we see the face of the city change (for better and worse) every day.
When was the last time you had froyo?
Ha ha! I've been known to have Pinkberry but it's been a few years, before they went nuts with all the flavors. At least that's a legit yogurt product and they keep the toppings where people can't pick through and sneeze on them. I think I've ended up in one of these new self-serve places once or twice at the behest of a friend, and I've satisfied my curiosity regarding what they have to offer. I doubt I will ever be a regular.