Johanna Hernandez said she arrived in the U.S. in 1992 from the Dominican Republic and since then has carved a path that sounds very close to the American Dream: get a good education, raise a family, launch a successful career.
Hernandez is a mother of two – including a son deployed as a U.S. Marine – and a former nursing student who has owned or managed several delis. Earlier this year she decided to open her own business: Wildberry Yogurt, a self-serve frozen yogurt café that opened Aug. 25 at 232 Route 25A in East Setauket.
"I always envisioned having a store here. ... This is my dream," said Hernandez, who has lived locally for 12 years. "It's really, really hard, but it's rewarding."
Wildberry Yogurt occupies the space , which closed in 2010 after about 40 years in business. The 1,600-square-foot space was the only vacancy in a 41,000-square-foot shopping center that's also home to , , , and other stores. Hernandez had to apply for a change-of-use construction permit and upgrade the septic tank in order to open a food-service business.
She said she is aware that the competition is abundant. and opened within the past two months. And in 2011 – when Marketplace.org called the frozen yogurt trend "far from cold" – franchises opened in 2011 in Stony Brook and in Port Jefferson, where opened across the street. But where others charge 49 cents per ounce, Wildberry Yogurt comes in a little cheaper at 45 cents per ounce.
"I'm very, very confident it's not going to affect me," she said of the competition. "It's a different product, different location."
Hernandez designed the café herself, giving it a bright and airy feel with a pink, purple, and turquoise theme and a large flat-screen TV. Wildberry Yogurt draws from a menu of more than 100 flavors with 14 featured each day.
"I just decided to bring something people love to the community," she said. "You're eating something healthy and it makes you happy."