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Goji’s Now Wants To Be Known For Treats, Not Just FroYo

Janette Zacharias, co-owner of Goji's Neighbourhood Treatery. Image: Inda Intiar/Huddle

MONCTON – It’s almost as if the colour scheme at the newly renovated Goji’s on Mountain Road reflects the company’s coming-of-age.

Known for being a bright self-serve frozen yogurt chain, the shop’s booths, seats and walls now have warm tones with a lot less of the orange and green of the company’s logo.

This is one of the company’s first steps to becoming the neighbourhood’s treat centre.

Janette Zacharias, the co-owner and co-founder of the company, said as the boom and bust of the frozen yogurt industry happened in Canada, a rebranding was needed for Goji’s to survive.

“We have always been more than yogurt, but the identity has been so closely tied with yogurt and we’re trying to shift that now,” she said. “If we were going to survive and then thrive, we needed to reinvent ourselves. One of the benefits of being small is you can be more nimble in making changes.”

In 2011, when the idea to open Goji’s came to Zacharias and her husband Jeff, the frozen yogurt sector was still booming in North America. That changed a few years later. Zacharias said many of the large American brands duplicated the model that worked in the States when they entered Canada – some with success, but after a while, they too saw a decline.

Goji’s is a Moncton company and its first store opened in Dieppe. But the business, which has a franchise location as far away as Kelowna, B.C., went through tough times too.

“That’s part of the whole bust. And we experienced that too. We’ve closed stores. So it became obvious in that we were too thin in what we were offering, too one dimensional,” Zacharias said.

After an ownership shuffle, where Zacharias and her husband bought out her two siblings and their spouses who founded the company with them, a new co-owner came in. Almost three years ago, Jim McDonald, who was first hired as a consultant, bought into the company.

“Jim came in and really started to influence the direction of the company,” she said. “He talked about the need to move away from the frozen yogurt identity, which now in Canada and the U.S. too, has a very negative identity or connotation.”

Goji’s currently has 10 locations in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and B.C. Of those, the Zacharias family directly owns the Moncton, Riverview and Shediac locations. The owners are also opening a Goji’s Express location in Grand Manan later this month that would only serve dipped cones.

The company plans to continue building on its strengths, which includes its commitment to real ingredients and the following it has captured, Zacharias said. It will still have the soft-serve frozen yogurt and hard ice cream that are made in store. But the rebranding means it will now also sell non-frozen treats baked in-store and coffee, among other things.

“One major product that we brought in with this renovation is the chimney cones and the chimney cakes from Europe. I actually went to Europe to learn how to do this,” Zacharias said. “It’s a pastry that you can have with a dipping sauce, great with a cup of coffee. And it can also be an ice cream cone. So, that particular product hits both the frozen and the non-frozen segment.”

At this point, only a couple of Goji’s franchisees have seen the new concept store on Mountain Road, which reopened in March. The company plans to have the model followed in some markets, but it hasn’t decided the details for now. However, for current franchisees, Zacharias said it’s up to them to invest in renovating their shops.

“If they come to us and say, ‘look, I really like what you’re doing. We want to make the investment. We want to turn into a full-on treatery,’ then absolutely, we’re happy to put those wheels in motion,” she said. “For sure, new development stores going forward, this is the model. And we’ll continue to grow, evolve and tweak.”

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