A Fresh, Healthy Start New Mr. Smoothie Franshise Opens In Fingerlakes Mall

CAYUGA | Thursday, December 09, 2004

Cheri Liseno, of Elbridge, recently opened Mr. Smoothie in the Fingerlakes Mall. She also owns and operates the Mr. Smoothie in Carousel Center, in Syracuse. Her husband, David, and his brothers, Joe and Bill, also own six area Subway stores, including locations in Fingerlakes Mall and Carousel Center, which are adjacent to the Mr. Smoothie kiosks. Cheri recently spoke with editorial assistant Julie M. King about her business.

In a few words, describe what your business is: Mr. Smoothie is a franchise that offers healthy products made with fresh fruits and vegetables. We also have vitamin and protein supplements that can be placed in the product. One of our big sellers is our carrot-apple juice; also our strawberry-banana smoothies, which are made with soft-serve, non-fat, frozen yogurt.

We offer a large variety of fruits (including strawberry, mango, banana, raspberry, melon, pineapple, peach and coconut), so the combinations are almost endless. Smoothies are refreshing and appeal to all age groups.

We also have a freeze drink made with fresh fruit, ice and sweetener. We also offer hand-squeezed juices including orange, carrot, apple and grapefruit. We also serve fountain beverages and soft-serve frozen yogurt in cones or cups. There are close to 40 Mr. Smoothies, primarily located in the Northeast. Start-up costs are between $125,000 and $150,000.

Number of employees: Ten employees for the holiday season.

How long have you owned it? We opened our Fingerlakes Mall location just before Halloween. Our Carousel location opened in July.

Were you involved in the business before owning it? No. Prior to this I was involved with my husband's Subway team. I've also been a dental hygienist since 1993. I still do that one day a week, in the Seneca County area, because I have a long list of patients that I've grown to know personally.

Describe a typical day for you: Because our Fingerlakes location is new, we're still in the process of training. I have a wonderful assistant general manager who helps me with both locations. So a typical day right now is training employees, being prepared for the holidays and making sure everything is order.

I'm also doing all the scheduling, inventory ordering and all administrative elements, including bill paying, working with vendors, maintaining the corporate relationship and dealing with customers.

In a few words, what is your business best known for? Most of all that it's a healthy, refreshing treat. And there's a tremendous variety of things you can have. You actually can have something different every day of the month.

People really like getting the protein and vitamin supplements added to the smoothies as well.

What's your favorite part of running this business? I really enjoy everything. I love working with our customers. I love being creative and finding new ways to promote our product. It's a fairly new company, and I feel that we could have an impact on how this company develops. There's also a great satisfaction in having your own franchise and making it grow. We also feel we're doing something good for our two sons, who both work with us in the business.

What's the hardest part? Just pulling everything together - working with vendors, suppliers, the malls, your own work force and customer service.

What led you to do this? We chose Mr. Smoothie because this is a healthy product made with fresh ingredients and suitable for all age groups. It can be a refreshing treat or even a meal supplement. It's also a product not yet experienced by a large percentage of the public, so we have enormous growth potential as a business.

If someone came into your business and asked to buy your best product, what would you sell them? I would say the best one to start with would be our strawberry-banana smoothie with a stress supplement (for the holidays) and, of course, whipped cream on the top.

What's the nicest thing a customer ever said to you? Fingerlakes Mall has a lot of older mall walkers in the mornings and they've been very intrigued with our juices. They're very health-conscious, so they're open to trying most everything.

How would you describe the business climate in Cayuga County? We're excited about it. We think we'll do very well here. We're excited about Fingerlakes Mall, with Bass Pro Shops and all the rewards that we will reap from that.

The mall is still fleshing out, inside and out, so much can happen. We really love our location. When the mall completes its first stage, it will really be a hot retail site.

Have you found any advantages or disadvantages to running a business in Cayuga County? The business community in this area, the regulatory folks in the town of Aurelius and the city, were very good to deal with. They know us, they like us, and they assisted us. There were no last-minute snags.

It's a pro-business environment. They've gone out of their way to facilitate our business.

Is there a person in business you admire or someone you'd like to thank? If I had to thank anyone, it would have to be my husband, David. He has helped to pull this together with me, and I couldn't do it without him. Also my mother-in-law, Eleanor Liseno, who has helped with everything, including cooking meals for our family.

What advice would you give someone starting out in a business like yours? Research the market, the franchise and all manner of business scenarios, not only predicting sales but getting a good handle on what your costs are going to be.

How do you like to spend your free time? There isn't that much of it right now, but we do like to travel and, of course, spend time with our kids.

Right now we're between doing business things and putting up Christmas decorations! In five years, what do you hope to be doing? What changes would you like to see for your business? I hope to be continuing with this and have more Mr.

Smoothies. I want to continue to grow with the company and be able to have my input and continue to make it a better product.

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1300 Ulster Ave, Ste 145
Kingston, NY

Phone: (845) 382-1144
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