Ice cream shops compete for student dollars

Jennie Kushner

For students looking to dine on The Strip, it isn’t a matter of what to eat; it’s a matter of where to eat.

The Strip offers several eateries, however most are the same cuisine. Pepito’s, El Rincon and a forthcoming Moe’s for Mexican, Bento or Surin for sushi, and now the choice comes to TCBY or Cold Stone Creamery for dessert.

While students seem to like the variety of restaurants, many say convenience is key in deciding where to eat.

“I like going to The Strip to eat, if I want Mexican, I’ll go to Pepito’s,” said Robert Fender, a senior majoring in business. “If Pepito’s is too busy, I can simply walk to El Rincon.”

TCBY and Cold Stone are both located in University Town Center, owned by the Inland Real Estate Group of Companies, Inc., based out of Illinois. Inland Real Estate also owns the Publix shopping center.

Cold Stone has been on The Strip since 2003, said owner Glenn Dodd, who bought the shop in 2007.

Dodd said his lease with Inland Real Estate Group gives him exclusivity to be the only ice cream shop in the center. TCBY, however, is not ice cream, it is frozen yogurt.

“Legally, [Inland Real Estate] has the right to lease to TCBY. However the question remains do they have a right to do that ethically,” Dodd said. “We are staying positive and trying to make the best of the situation.”

Inland Real Estate Group said they were unable to comment on the specifics of the leases.

Emily Couch, a TCBY supervisor, said she thinks the products TCBY and Cold Stone offer are completely different.

“I feel like both of the stores are well established throughout the country, saying that we know that our customers have their preferences,” she said. “So it’s not like we are trying to run Cold Stone out of business. I feel like the products that we offer are different; we are frozen yogurt and they are ice-cream.”

Couch said that since the shopping center is so close to campus, it is good to give students choices.

She said the Tuscaloosa location of TCBY is the third in the country to be self-serve and the second with the modern design.

“I feel like both places offer good variety for students to choose from,” she said. “Even though there is competition, we are providing choice, and that is beneficial for everyone.”

Some students feel the rivalry is unfair.

“At a school where tradition is so big, it doesn’t seem fair to Cold Stone to have to deal with competition just two stores over,” said Caroline Krauser a senior majoring in advertising. “Cold Stone has been on The Strip for seven years now, I just don’t think it’s fair they now have to face competition.”

“Although I may choose to eat at TCBY simply because I like their yogurt better, I think it’s unfair to Cold Stone that another ice cream store is that close,” said Julie Wells, a senior majoring in education.

“I’m glad TCBY is more centrally located,” Fender said. “Before, students had to drive all the way to 15th Street. Now it’s in the center of town.”

Dodd said despite the competition, he is staying positive.

“Now is a time for our customers to step up and support Cold Stone through this time,” he said. “We are trying to be positive and make it through.”