Buddhaberry Rides Fro-Yo Fad

"A frozen yogurt store is a perfect venue to get your kids to try some healthy alternatives.”
Jenna Kestan, the daughter of Nancy Passaletti, was one of the inspirations for Buddhaberry. Morgan McGivern

Nancy Passaretti is revamping the fro-yo fad with Buddhaberry, her frozen yogurt shops in Sag Harbor and Montauk that offer all natural yogurt with superfood toppings, as well as an entire spectrum of sweets. After last season, her first summer with Buddhaberry in Montauk, Ms. Passaretti decided to move to the South Fork full time and open a year-round store at 125 Main Street in Sag Harbor.

The store is lined with dispensers which range from a selection of healthy toppings like chia seeds, goji berries, toasted quinoa, and raw cacao to the tried-and-true sprinkles, Cap’n Crunch, marshmallows, and mini M&Ms. A chocolate and fresh fruit bar have even more to offer, plus coffee, and four different kinds of homemade Belgian waffles.

It’s been only three weeks since the store’s opening, and business is “crazy, too busy,” Ms. Passaretti said. In addition to the flood of customers, who begin pouring in at lunchtime, she must manage a daily shipment of over 100 cases of yogurt, each of which has a different shelf life after being defrosted. She and her 13-year-old daughter, Jenna, are moving to Sagaponack soon, but until then are renting the apartment on top of Buddhaberry. On Friday, Jenna traipsed down from the apartment to show off their Wheaten terrier, Jojo. Hearing her mother talk about the store’s chaos, she grinned and said, “She’s too busy to drop me off at the camp bus!”

After 20 years of working in medical software, Ms. Passarretti made the full-time switch to frozen yogurt, in part because her family was eating it so often and missed it on their weekends in Montauk. She saw a niche to be filled and a business opportunity on the South Fork, “as well as something good for other families. A frozen yogurt store is a perfect venue to get your kids to try some healthy alternatives,” she said.

Ms. Passaretti scouted the country for dairy farms and manufacturing plants. The yogurts she settled on are from all over: Arkansas, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. Buddhaberry offers five different yogurt cultures, three of which are live probiotic strains to that are supposed to support digestion and boost the immune system. The store’s 12 original flavors include nonfat, low-fat, organic, sugar free, and Greek frozen yogurts. Also on the menu are fat and dairy-free sorbets, Italian ices, and reduced-fat gelatos. The store boasts “the East Coast’s only coconut-based, vegan yogurt,” Ms. Passaretti said, adding that the Kardashians come in daily for a dairy-free fix.

Ms. Passaretti’s favorite flavors are peach and chocolate, with toasted quinoa and almonds, while Jenna likes the tart the best, but both agreed they have spent so much time at the store over the past weeks that they have had enough for now. Their most popular flavors, “surprisingly,” said Ms. Passaretti, are still chocolate and vanilla. Also popular is the Bloomingdale’s “just plain” yogurt, and organic salted caramel with real caramel and pieces of pretzel. Buddhaberry yogurt is flavored with real flavors, Ms. Passaretti said: Green tea has real tea leaves in it, red velvet cupcake is made of red velvet batter, and candy bar smash-up uses five candy bars a gallon.

Not only did she look all over the United States for her yogurts, but she also traveled to Israel to figure out the design and technicalities of the store’s yogurt experience. Ms. Passaretti said she feels like a “germaphobe about self-serve,” so she looked for topping dispensers that involved minimal hands-on time, but kept “the creative aspect of designing your own yogurt.”

She was disappointed with the type of dispenser she used in Montauk last year, she said, and realized how important it is “to have the perfect system.” Anything smaller than a sunflower seed goes in a slowly-dispensing container. Nuts and malted milk balls, for example, go into a container that dispenses more quickly. Still not 100 percent satisfied with her current system, Ms. Passeretti said she is looking to improve the flow of toppings.

More delicate add-ons like Buddhaberry’s five flavors of juice-filled tapioca pearls, or boba, wet walnuts soaked in maple syrup, and fruit are added for customers by an employee behind the bar. Ms. Passaretti said that the fruit is delivered twice a day in both organic and nonorganic selections, depending on what looks good on a particular day.

Those who visit can enjoy an all-out sugar fest or a guilt-free treat. Starting Columbus Day, and throughout Buddhaberry’s first winter in Sag Harbor, Ms. Passaretti plans to serve vegetarian, lentil, and bean soups, with a “special miso soup with buckwheat noodles every day.” Next year, Buddhaberry will open in Southampton, too.

Nancy Passaretti at the Sag Harbor Buddhaberry Morgan McGivern