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Popular American chain comes to Canada

Posted by Jeff on October 30, 2010 at 3:56 PM

Frozen yogurt company plans to take Toronto, then launch 100 stores across the country. Hot treat for celebs.



A Toronto storefront that was once the centre of a firestorm over the Canadian invasion by Starbucks, targeted as a symbol of creeping globalization, takes on a new fame-seeking identity this weekend.

But, instead of Frappuccinos, the main draw will be frozen yogurt.

Menchie's, based in Encino, Calif., will open a flagship location at 511 Bloor St. W. And the company will use it as a launch pad to open 100 more across Canada over the next five years.

The chain spawned from a store in San Fernando Valley that opened in 2007. Its rotating frozen yogurt flavours, and 60 different toppings, turned local families into repeat customers.

Since then, the concept rapidly spread across California, Florida and Georgia and beyond, to Japan, Dubai, Australia, Mexico, and now the Toronto neighbourhood known as the Annex.

Dooney's Café, a longtime occupant of the new space, found itself on the verge of eviction in 1996 when Starbucks signed a long-term lease for the building. Public outcry from residents of the area, inhabited by professors, academics and intellectuals, including the late urban theorist Jane Jacobs, led to Starbucks subletting the café so that Dooney's could stay.

Victory did not keep Dooney's in business forever, though. The business tried to rejuvenate itself with help from the show "Restaurant Makeover," but owner Graziano Marchese moved on in 2008, citing the area's increasingly younger demographics on a strip where sushi had become the preferred cuisine.

A new owner failed to revitalize the business, and Dooney's was replaced by the T cafe, which earned a one-star review from Toronto Star food critic Corey Mintz.

"Perhaps the food at T cafe would be better if it were a Starbucks," he smirked. "I would rather eat one of its prepackaged ham sandwiches than another meal here."

Menchie's, which opens Saturday, will bring something entirely different to the neighbourhood. The company is proud of its cameo appearances in paparazzi photos, having replaced Starbucks as the hot indulgence amongst young celebrities. Its promotional materials name drop Miley Cyrus, Kim Kardashian and Nick Jonas as regular customers

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