Yogurt chain Orange Leaf set for NYC expansion

By Guelda Voien | May 20, 2013 11:00AM

Add another name to ever-expanding roster of self-serve frozen yogurt slingers to take on Manhattan. Orange Leaf, one of the nation’s fast-growing franchises, has two local stores, plans for three more in the borough, and an additional eight to 12 locations planned to get up and running across the city by the end of next year.

And Diana Davidson, who holds the master franchise license for Orange Leaf in New York State, doesn’t plan to stop there either, she told The Real Deal. The purveyor of probiotic treats also has plans to open in Westchester and other parts of the Hudson Valley.

Davidson recently signed a 10-year lease for the company’s first Upper West Side outpost, at 526 Amsterdam Avenue, between 85th and 86th streets. The asking rent for the space was $20,000 per month, Davidson said, and the store should open in July. But perhaps more distinctive than her burgeoning yogurt empire is the fact that 25-year-old Davidson has handled real estate decisions for her stores herself, her broker, Henry Goldfarb, vice chairman at Lee & Associates, told TRD.

Davidson approached Goldfarb about 10 months ago with ambitious plans to open a number of shops, but no experience leasing New York City real estate or running a business.

“It’s not gonna happen,” he told her, when she said she wanted to open a number of stores in the next six months, he said.

Then Davidson shocked him by learning the real estate landscape, hiring general contractors herself for the build-out of all her spaces and learning to navigate the intricacies of leasing retail space.

“I just admire her for having her feet on the ground and not hiring [a consultant] and having it cost a bunch of money,” Goldfarb said.

The other Orange Leaf stores under construction — and slated to open in June — include one at 345 Adams Street in Brooklyn Heights and one at 245 Third Avenue in Gramercy Park.

Orange Leaf stores are located at 1467 Third Avenue, on the Upper East Side, and 608 Second Avenue, in the East Village.

The company started in 2009 and boasts 253 stores across the country. It was ranked No. 3 in Entrepreneur.com’s ranking of new franchises this year.

“I had been looking into several franchise concepts before I found Orange Leaf,” Davidson said. The chain “joined two of my interests together,” she said, referring to yogurt and real estate.

Goldfarb led a Lee team of executive managing director Stanley Lindenfeld and associate broker Adam Frisch in handling all Orange Leaf transactions.

Future plans include additional expansion in Brooklyn, he said.

“We’d love to get Diana in around the Barclays Center,” he said.