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Freezing Out The Competition?

For Stewart Manor residents expecting a major meltdown between TCBY and Carvel at a public hearing last week, soft-serve endorsements for the potential new kid on the block were served up instead.

Following a recent zoning board meeting, at which future TCBY owners and Garden City residents Carlos and Helene Jorge were granted a variance for 11 parking spaces, the Stewart Manor board of trustees approved a Special Use application that would allow the Jorges to open a TCBY yogurt shop at 100 Covert Ave., the site of the former Stewart Manor branch of the Elmont Public Library.

“We received the variance for the 11 parking spaces required by the fact that the space is 800 square feet and one space is required for each 75 square feet,” said counsel Steven Kaiser, who represents the Jorges. As for other logistics of operating a yogurt shop business, Kaiser said the owners will work with the village’s Department of Public Works to arrange daily garbage removal. He reiterated that there will be no cooking on the premises, as the frozen yogurt is a prepared product that comes in contained plastic drums and gets loaded into machines.

A common thread among attendees at the public hearing was the Jorges’ community involvement. “The applicant lives nearby and is vested in the community. He hopes to be involved in this community and be active in the school system as well,” Kaiser said.

Trustee James Lynch spoke to Jorge’s “responsible volunteerism in the community,” citing his many years coaching youth soccer. “He seems to be the guy to always step up to the plate,” Lynch said.

And an Argyle Road resident, whose home is directly behind Covert Avenue businesses, said, “He is agreeing to participate with the community and wants to be part of the community. As far as I’m concerned, I’d like you to participate as long as there’s not an excessive amount of garbage, I don’t have a problem with it … As villagers, we try and support the stores and I think it’s great to have someone who will support the village.”

The building’s landlord, Nicholas Pellegrini, noted that Jorge is “so pro the neighborhood.” Pellegrini admittedly had offers from other potential tenants, “but we liked him so much. … . I really believe it’s gonna be really good for the community.”

While the Jorges received such a warm reception, Carvel owners Maggi and Jeff Chen, who were present but did not speak at the public hearing, remain hot under the collar. When reached for comment afterward, this is what Mr. Chen had to say: “I’m bitter. There’s not enough foot traffic for two frozen dessert shops like this. What can I do? There’s nothing I can do. Kids go for that fun factor. Carvel is old school. We serve you. If they can make it themselves and pay through the nose, they don’t care. It’s going to hurt. I’m struggling as it is.”

The “fun factor” Chen referenced is TCBY’s self-serve business model, a prototype the frozen yogurt stalwart adopted in 2010. In neighboring Garden City, on Seventh Street, TCBY and Baskin Robbins have co-existed for many years, despite TCBY’s self-serve model.

The Jorges hope to be open for business this summer. The store, which will house five tables, will open late morning and close at 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, according to Kaiser and Jorge.

Rich Forestano contributed to this story.