Is Three a Crowd?

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first it was starbucks, then banks. now, the upper west side is being inundated by lower calorie frozen dessert stores. particularly a stretch of broadway between west 94th and 95th streets, where three optionsexist for those looking to satisfytheir sweet tooth without adding to their waistlines.

on the west side of broadway at 95th street sits peaches natural yogurt café, directly across from the lite choice (tlc). walk over to the east side of broadway at 94th street and there is a tasti-d-lite in the middle of the block.all are kosher and tout their low-calorie status.

"the day tasti opened, both stores"-tasti-d-lite and the lite choice-"were offering promotions. it was like an ice cream war,"said neighborhood residenthillel spinner, who favors tlc and is partial to peanut butter. "it tastes almost like real ice cream, only it's light and i'm health conscious."

prior to september 2008,the location where tlc now sits was a tasti-d-lite. according to tlc president and ceo ron greenstein, when tasti-d-lite became a franchise, he and his partner ed newmark decided to create their own brand of soft-serve and organic flavors, trademarking it "tlc, the lite choice." a four-ounce serving ranges from 85 to 120 calories, dependingon the flavor, and is low-fat, low-carb and lower calorie.

while tlc has its fans, there are still many diehard tasti-d-lite lovers, which is one of the reasons the company opened up a new and larger operation on west 94th street, according to lindsay held, the company's area developer for the manhattan territory. the branch has been operating since sept. 27.

"we plan to focus on what we do well," held said. "no frozen dessert brand offers the creaminess of tasti-d-lite. our dairy-base mixes do not contain artificial sweeteners and it has much less than half the sugar of the leading frozen yogurt chains."

tasti-d-lite's four-ounce serving ranges from 85 and 100 calories.

peaches natural yogurt café, just a few doors away from mcdonald's on west 95th street, has been in the area the longest; the store celebrated its year anniversary this past september. robert jang said he and the other four owners had been looking for a location for a while, so when this spot opened up they grabbed it. at the time, a tasti-d-lite was across the street (it's now the tlc), but he said they didn't consider it a competitor.

"it's a different product," jang said. "there are no other stores close by that offer a similar product. two in ten customers walk in and think we sell the same stuff, so we give them a sample, and if they don't like it we send them across the street."

unlike the other two frozen dessert chains, which offer a wide range of flavors, peaches offers just four: original, euro-tart, green tea and one floating selection, ranging from banana to cappuccino. a four-ounce serving ranges from 60 to 120 calories. all the flavors are non-fat with the exception of peanut butter, which is low fat.

"our product tastes like greek yogurtand the europeans love it, especiallyour euro-tart and green tea," jang said.

while customers in the neighborhood seem to have strong opinions about which frozen dessert they like best, the question remains, will there be enough business to keep all three stores afloat?

the business owners seem hopeful. tlc has begun offering a successful seasonal product early-lite hot chocolate-to give customers another reason to stop by. tasti-d-lite is rolling out new products, like hot granola and a fruit n' granola parfait. and after struggling last winter, when jang said that peaches was "dead," he is hopeful that things will be different this year, especially now that the scaffolding that once hung over his store is removed. he and his partners are planning to open another store this winter on the upper east side.

not everyone is so optimistic, however.

"the chances of any three similar businesses within one block staying in business in this economic environment are pretty slim," said jay streich, president of quality living inc., a licensed real estate broker with offices on the upper west side and downtown. "i'm sure one will stay open."

resident sandra carballo was equally pessimistic.

"it doesn't make sense to me. i don't see how they can all survive," she said. "maybe if one of them starts selling sandwiches and soup or something. otherwise they are just too similar."

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