One of these Ayelada frozen yogurts is dairy-free ... can you tell the difference?
"We created the dairy-free option after getting requests on our Facebook page," Jim Cervone said. "There were families coming in that would have a lactose-intolerant member and that person would sit and twiddle their thumbs or just have a water, while the rest of the family enjoyed frozen yogurt. Now, all the members of the family can sit down and have yogurt. We've had lots of good feedback and it's pretty exciting for us." He added the dairy-free yogurt currently accounts for about 20 percent of sales.
There are only five frozen yogurts in the case to choose from at Ayelada on East Street, so it shouldn't be that hard to make a decision — other than the fact they're all really good. But for those who can't make up their minds, samples are available to help seal the deal. The store, which is celebrating its fifth anniversary, changes the flavors out every week. This week's offerings are Nutella Joe, banana cream pie, mango and original — plus the shop's newest addition, a dairy-free/vegan triple berry yogurt.
The Cervones pride themselves on using locally produced ingredients to make their frozen yogurt, saying they try to stay within a 100-mile radius, but most of their ingredients are from local farms and artisan businesses.
"Our milk — 100 percent Jersey milk, which is the sweetest — comes from Mapleline Farm in Hadley and the low-fat yogurt comes from Sidehill Farm in Hawley," Jim said. "We also use coffee from No. 6 Depot Roastery in West Stockbridge and Assembly Coffee Roasters in Pittsfield." He added other suppliers included a peanut butter maker in Albany, N.Y., tea from Tea Guys in Hatfield and Harney & Sons in Millerton, N.Y., and a goat's milk caramel produced in Brookfield, Vt. Not to mention locally made doughnuts, cakes and honeys.
The recipe for the original yogurt is fairly simple and has only five ingredients: Milk, yogurt, yogurt powder, sugar and a binder, which "helps pull the ingredients together," Jim said. To create flavored frozen yogurt, the flavoring ingredient is mixed into the original. For example, if the yogurt is to be fruit-flavored, a fresh fruit puree (no sugar added) is mixed into the original.
For the dairy-free/vegan yogurt, the recipe is equally as simple except the cow's milk and yogurt are replaced by coconut, almond or cashew milk and yogurt, and the powdered yogurt is eliminated, Lisa said. "The hardest part was trying to get the same consistency [as the cow's milk frozen yogurt]. We currently have one flavor, but will be adding a second flavor around May 1. The flavor will change on a daily basis."
Ayelada's story began about six years ago in Northampton when the Cervones visited GoBerry, a frozen yogurt shop. "We loved it — the flavor was great, and we found ourselves going to Northampton more and more to get it," Jim said. "We asked the owners, Alex and Molly Feinstein, if they wanted to open in Pittsfield. They didn't, but helped us with recipes, set up and gave us their support." Ayelada opened in April 2013, featuring 80 flavors on a rotating basis.
The shop now has 150-plus flavors in its repertoire.
"Our flavor ideas come from everywhere," Lisa said. "Last week, I saw a lemon white chocolate cheesecake recipe in a magazine. Nutella Joe came from our son, who called us from a coffee shop, where he was drinking coffee with Nutella mixed in. We also travel to other ice cream stores and see what they have. Customers give us suggestions. Some weeks, we try out 20 flavors; some weeks, none." She added that while they do have a Girl Scout Thin Mint flavor, a Samoa cookie flavor didn't work out as well.
Events also can spark new flavors. Lisa said for Cinco de Mayo, there will be a Mexican chocolate frozen yogurt. National Twinkie Day, April 6, resulted in a Twinkie flavor and a birthday was the inspiration for FunFetti Birthday Cake frozen yogurt.
The Cervones credit their five-year success to "Pittsfield being a cool community in supporting local businesses," Jim said. "We also offer a good product at a good price. It's a nice clean place and all of the yogurt is made right here."
In looking at the next five years, he said another store is a possibility. "It's either go big — or stay small."
Try it for yourself ...
Where: 505 East St., Pittsfield.
Hours: 11 a.m.- 9 p.m Monday - Friday; Noon - 9 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
Information: www.ayelada.com or on Facebook
The basic ingredients to success
- Ayelada (a-yah-lah-da) is the Greek word for "cow"
- 250 gallons of milk and 120 pounds of yogurt are used every week to make the frozen yogurt
- The store sells an average of 3,200 servings per week
- 60 to 65 percent of the customers order the original flavor
- The shop holds at least one charitable fundraiser a month and provides prizes for area high school games
- There are 25 toppings available daily, including fresh-cut fruit
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