Photo Gallery | Ayelada frozen yogurt
PITTSFIELD — The process begins in a back room of Jim and Lisa Cervone's frozen yogurt shop.
First, fresh milk and yogurt — both procured from local farms — are placed into buckets.
Next up are the ingredients, which come from various sources. Everything from cinnamon buns to gingerbread cookies to eggnog — even grapes from a local winery — can be put into the mix as toppings or flavors. Many of these products come from local producers as well.
The finished product?
A tasty concoction of all-natural frozen yogurt.
Welcome to Ayelada, where locally produced frozen yogurt has become a popular staple in the Berkshires and a profitable business for the Cervones.
The Cervones opened Ayelada (the Greek word for cow) at 505 East St. in Pittsfield in April 2013, and opened a second store in Latham, N.Y., outside of Albany, in May.
The couple is surprised at their success.
"It really started as sort of a fluke," Jim Cervone said.
Originally from New Jersey, Jim Cervone worked in finance in New York City before he and his wife relocated to the Berkshires in 2000. He's in real estate. Lisa, a native of Dalton, is a physical therapist.
They both like to visit Northampton, and it was in the Pioneer Valley that the idea that eventually grew into Ayelada was formed. The Cervones discovered GoBerry, a small business with stores in Northampton and Amherst that makes frozen yogurt from fresh ingredients.
"We got to know the owners," Jim Cervone said. "We talked to them about maybe opening a store here. They said they didn't want to."
Instead, GoBerry owners Alex and Molly Feinstein agreed to teach the Cervones their process for making frozen yogurt from natural ingredients. They also gave them some recipes so the Cervones could get started on their own business.
"They gave us a case of recipes, maybe 15, and we've created another 70 on our own," Jim Cervone said.
At the Pittsfield store, Ayelada uses fresh milk and yogurt provided by Mapleline Farm in Hadley and Side Hill Farm in Hawley. At the Latham location, the shop buys those same ingredients from Highlawn Farm in Lee.
Due to the recipes and the uniqueness of GoBerry's frozen yogurt making process, Jim Cervone said he decided to continue to purchase his ingredients for the Pittsfield store from the same farms that the Feinsteins did.
The Cervones turned to Highlawn Farm's products in Latham because the Berkshire-based dairy does business in New York's Capital Region, and the distance was too far for the other Massachusetts-based farms.
There are other yogurt establishments in the Berkshires that say they use fresh ingredients, but Jim Cervone believes Ayelada's process is unique to this area.
"To my knowledge, the only people that I'm aware of that make yogurt they way we do is GoBerry," Jim Cervone said. "The others are using a mix, no matter what they say. That's 98 percent of the frozen yogurt business.
"It's an entirely new concept," he said, referring to GoBerry and Ayelada's process.
The Pittsfield store receives fresh milk and yogurt from farms every Wednesday.
"That milk was in the cow on Monday," Jim Cervone said. "These are small dairies with a low herd and head count. There's no hormones. They're grass-fed, Jersey cows.
"We know where our milk is coming from," he asid. "It's extremely high quality and it's all Jersey milk, which is the sweetest milk."
Ayelada currently has more than 100 flavors; the store rotates four flavors on a weekly basis. Of that total number, 40 contain products provided by local farms and artisans.
They include carrot cake from Bake Me Pretty in Dalton; coffee-based flavors from Assembly Coffee Roasters in Pittsfield and Barrington Coffee Roasters in Lee; cider donuts from Bartlett's Orchards in Richmond; different donut flavors from Home Sweet Home Donut Shop in Great Barrington; cinnamon bun/cookie/cake flavors from Madeline's in Pittsfield; eggnog from Highlawn Farm; harvest grapes from Balderdash Cellars in Pittsfield; and maple syrup from Ioka Valley Farm in Hancock.
"Maple syrup is one of the biggest sellers we have," Jim Cervone said.
Toppings come from a variety of Berkshire farms including Lakeview Orchards and Mountain View Farm in Lanesborough and Blueberry Hill Farm in Mount Washington.
Ayelada rotates 25 employees at its store in Pittsfield and 15 in Latham. Only three of the Pittsfield employees are full-time.
Popular with young adults and teenagers, Ayelada also maintains a robust presence on social media. The Pittsfield store's Facebook page has almost 5,000 likes, while the Latham store's has 1,800.
The idea for starting the business might have come by chance, but it has fulfilled a need for the Cervones.
"You know you sit around and say I'd really like to own a restaurant," Jim Cervone said. "This was as close as we could get to that.
"My wife and I like to cook and like to eat," he said. "We felt something like this would be interesting to do in the Berkshires. Long story short, it is. People love this place."