Downtown Morristown entered this winter with three frozen yogurt shops. One of them won’t see the spring.
CUPS, which opened in March 2012 as a “nightclub for kids,” has closed its South Street location, citing a weak retail base and limited parking.
Landlord Jimmy Cavanaugh said Thursday he hopes to extend his proposed Gran Cantina Mexican restaurant into the 2,100-square-foot space vacated by CUPS, to create a larger restaurant.
But that will hinge on whether the town council eases conditions it imposed on the Gran Cantina back in October 2012, he said.
The council allowed Jimmy to expand his Iron Bar liquor license next door into the proposed Gran Cantina (the former Zebu Forno café), provided the Gran Cantina halts alcohol sales at 11 pm and reduces its bar size.
At the time, council members and residents asserted that the downtown already was saturated with young bar patrons wreaking late-night havoc.
Jimmy disputes that, and contends he cannot get bank financing for the Gran Cantina because the early bar closing stipulation would harm the restaurant’s chances for success.
“It’s very difficult to tell someone who sits down at 10:30 that you only have a half hour–and then you can’t have a drink,” he said.
Around April he intends to ask the council to extend his Iron Bar liquor license into the former CUPS space–and to drop the 11 pm restriction, he said.
Otherwise, Jimmy said, the downtown may be stuck with empty storefronts. He contends the economy, parking issues, and town taxes of $7 per square foot make it hard to attract retail tenants.
“A methadone clinic approached me, but I didn’t want to put that downtown,” he said.
Jimmy added that he tried, unsuccessfully, to entice the owner of Mendham Books–closing in March after 17 years in business–to relocate to his storefronts in Morristown.
‘LIKE A MINI-HOBOKEN’
When CUPS came to Morristown, an official with the chain described the town as a perfect fit: Lots of kids, lots of opportunities.
“It’s kind of like a mini-Hoboken,” CUPS Vice President Lou Beyer told MorristownGreen.com at the time.
The shop put bikinis in the window and old beach party movies on its flat screen. The 24 self-serve flavors and 50 toppings were secondary.
“We don’t look at this as a yogurt shop,” Lou said. “It’s a nightclub for kids.”
In a statement issued Thursday, CUPS co-founder Rick Barbrick said:
“We made a business decision to close the corporate location in Morristown, NJ. As part of company’s franchise expansion strategy, this location was one of several test markets for the brand to access the benefits of different types of location areas/types. After two years, we felt it was in the company’s best business interest to close.
“We have offered employees transfers to other locations and all except one, who had transportation challenges, accepted.
“Traditionally, CUPS locations are built around destination venues such as shopping malls or areas with a strong retail base. The Morristown location did not share those attributes and was more of a work and nightlife area with very limited parking.”
Morristown was the fourth location for CUPS, which started in Clifton in 2010 under the corporate umbrella of the Briad Group, which operates T.G.I. Friday’s and Wendy’s. The closure will enable the owners to focus on expansion to places “better suited for CUPS,” said Rick.
Marketed as “frozen yogurt–that’s hot,” CUPS opened 11 shops in New Jersey, New York, Florida and California last year. Rick said up to 80 more franchises are anticipated over the next few years.
Taro and Strawberry Fields remain to satisfy Morristown’s froyo cravings. The Creamery has been serving ice cream on South Street for years, Enjou Chocolat sells it during warm weather, and Blimpie offers frozen confections.
Others have had a tough time weathering the public’s changing tastes. Baskin-Robbins, Ricky’s, Tart & Tufo (gelato), Rita’s (frozen custard), Morristown Dairy and, last fall, Café on the Green (gelato), have come and gone.