Frozen yogurt chain Red Mango is at it's best when it's helping customers fight off that post-lunchtime fatigue.
That's according to the manager of of the location. "It's always busy in the afternoon," he said, identifying himself only as Manuel, "People want to come by and have a little boost."
Manuel meant that last part literally. One of the things that sets the frozen yogurt chain apart from others is its signature "boosts," which can be added to smoothies or shakes. Much like Jamba Juice, Red Mango offers a variety of healthy boosts depending on what you're looking for, be it antioxidants, extra energy or just a megadose of vitamin C.
Now in it's second week at Northbrook Court, Red Mango was a long time coming. The company opened it's first U.S. store in Los Angeles' Westwood neighborhood in 2007. Images of UCLA students waiting in long lines for the stuff became iconic as the popularity and reach of the store spread quickly.
Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood got it's Red Mango in 2008, shortly followed by outposts in Naperville and Evanston. According to Shannon Ridgeway, marketing manager for Northbrook Court, Red Mango is a natural fit for the mall.
"Red Mango brings a nice addition to our retailer and eateries mix. It's located near the Children's Tree House play area which makes it a fun visit and experience for families while they are shopping at Northbrook Court," said Ridgeway. "This is a rapidly growing franchise for good and healthy yogurt, and we are glad to have Red Mango here and look forward to a great relationship with them."
Manuel has his own ideas about Red Mango's appeal. "It puts people in control," he said. "We do everything, all the frozen yogurt, the toppings, by weight." Demonstrating the self serve area, he held a small sample cup under the 'White Peach' flavor and poured a bit for himself. There are about six different stations here and a dozen or so flavors. Customers grab a cup and then pour their own frozen yogurt. A large cup full of the stuff can come out to about $6, and can go even higher with toppings like dark chocolate mini chips or crushed graham crackers.
"It can sometimes get a little crazy on the weekends," he admitted. "We need someone out here to keep people from cutting in line."
As Manuel demonstrated how to use the self-serve stations, a small group of customers gathered in front of the register. They had their eyes set on ordering some shakes made with the signature frozen yogurt.
Elia Benitez of Northbrook said that the probiotic qualities of yogurt were one of the major draws for her. "I eat a ton of yogurt," she said. "This is going to be good for me."
Mike Kratochwill of Highland Park also had his health in mind. "I chose healthy. I got the pomegranate," he said, sipping his shake. Asked why the group had decided to come here, Kratochwill again had a ready answer. "It's 2:30, it's the afternoon. It's treat time," he said.
Manuel stepped back behind the counter to serve the steady stream of Northbrook Court shoppers coming to Red Mango for their afternoon boost.