As a massive frozen yogurt wave overtakes Manhattan, led by Pinkberry, Red Mango, and the many, many others, is "dairy-based frozen dessert" pioneer and New York native Tasti D-Lite drowning?
Several locations around town have recently changed to The Lite Choice, which looks a lot like Tasti D-Lite, but isn't. I asked the salesperson in one of the TLCs what was going on and she told me the owner of these franchise locations has bought them from Tasti D-Lite and converted them into his own brand. According to Food Mayhem, this includes 16 stores around town.
Founded in 1987 by Celeste Carlesimo and her father, Louis, Tasti D-Lite is a survivor from the late-80s fro-yo boom, which included such dimly remembered contenders as Skimpy Treat, Skinny Dip, Yo Cream, and the unfortunately amphibian-sounding Frogurt.
As a writer for the Columbia Spectator put it, "Tasti D-Lite is the New York original--not only was the company founded in the city, but it has pioneered a love affair between New Yorkers and fake ice cream." So maybe Tasti is to blame for today's bloody fro-yo wars, in which the originator is not going down without a fight.
The company was bought last year by the guy behind Mail Boxes Etc. and I Can't Believe It's Yogurt. He's going after LA's Pinkberry and South Korea's Red Mango by invading their home territories, expanding Tasti D-Lite into LA and South Korea. And he's trying to revive Tasti's dusty image by sprucing up old stores and running "new" ads like this one:
They've also employed "tasteologists" to help you with your many flavor questions, whatever those might be.
If I were forced to root for someone in the fro-yo wars, I guess I'd have to go with the underdog, senior-citizen Tasti. Though they're no longer locally owned, they still bring to mind a scruffy city chain, dingy with the sepia tint of the 1980s, and the inspiration for a famous episode of Seinfeld:
Now and then, I like to cover "vanishing" chains, just so anonymous commenters can call me hypocritical (ambivalent is more accurate). Here are some more: