When 37-year-old Kevan Lee moved to Hoffman Estates in 2000 from Seoul, South Korea, frozen yogurt wasn't exactly on the marketing major's radar. Now, he's getting ready to open his second frozen yogurt location in Downers Grove.
Lee is hoping to open Cocomero—an Italian word for watermelon that Lee's brother-in-law found on the Internet and liked the sound of—in August, and the store will occupy the space previously did as Knitche is moving across the street. It will be the second Cocomero location, with the first opening in Champaign in 2009. Lee opened that location with his brother-in-law but is opening the Downers Grove location on his own.
Cocomero will feature frozen yogurt in about 12 flavors with roughly 30 toppings available that the customer can choose from before weighing the cup and paying the appropriate amount. The frozen yogurt will be liquid-based instead of powder-based, as Lee said powder-based yogurt only has about one-third of the active cultures of the liquid-based yogurt. In addition to frozen yogurt, Cocomero will also sell bubble teas, smoothies, flavored lattes and other healthy items, according to Lee.
“It's really healthy food and if I can't feed it to my kid I don't sell it,” Lee said.
Back when Lee graduated from college, he worked at a small telephone company doing design and management before his brother-in-law got the idea to open a yogurt store and asked Lee to help. Lee wanted to start his own business, so he joined his brother in-law in Champaign near the University of Illinois and helped out as a designer and manger, becoming the co-owner of the Champaign location. The store was a quick success, with a line out the door on opening day and an average of 4,000 customers a day during its best days during the school year.
With the experience of the Champaign location under his belt, Lee decided he wanted to open his own location without the help of his brother-in-law—who's opening a third location in Elmhurst—and began looking for a location. Foot traffic is important for a frozen yogurt shop's success, so Lee started checking out downtowns that were along train stations, and initially contemplated Hinsdale as a possible location. Lee eventually drove through Downers Grove and saw the available space on Main Street and loved the atmosphere of the downtown area and settled on Downers Grove after that.
Lee said he is working at an incredibly fast pace in an attempt to get the store open by late August or early September, with hopes to open sooner in August if everything goes his way. It's important for Lee to open sooner rather than later because the winter season is usually a lean time for businesses that sell cold, summery treats like ice cream or frozen yogurt. To combat the season, though, Lee plans on having a winter menu.
“The problem of frozen yogurt is wintertime,” Lee said. “I need to get some ideas to tide us over during the winter so I'll have a winter menu.”