The owners of a Colorado Spring-based self-serve frozen yogurt chain have expanded their reach into northern Colorado.

The Grzecka family, which owns YoYogurt, recently purchased three Coolberry Frozen Yogurt stores in Fort Collins, Loveland and Windsor, and converted them into YoYogurt shops. The brother and sisters team of Nic Grzecka, Liz Johnson and Amanda Ralston have four YoYogurt locations in the Springs area.

Nic Grzecka said the price of the Coolberry stores, their locations and the expected quick rate of return on their investment made the expansion into northern Colorado too appealing to ignore.

“We spent less than it would have cost to build new stores,” Nic Grzecka said. “We are hoping to make it all back in a year to a year-and-a-half.”

But how quickly the stores return the family’s investment depends on how fast Grzecka and his sisters can reorganize the shops and overcome negative customer perceptions. The three stores were lagging in popularity and about to close when the Grzeckas bought them, said, Liz Johnson.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” she said. “There was no management in the stores, (and) we have to go in, and clean it up, and run the stores the way we run them.”

Coolberry’s owners contacted the family to see if they were interested in purchasing the shops, which are all inside strip malls, Nic Grzecka said. Only the Windsor store is without local competition, he said. The three shops follow the same self-serve model as the Springs-area YoYogurt shops, where customers pour yogurt into a cup, drape it with toppings, then weigh their purchase and pay by the ounce.

The Grzeckas opened their first area store off Stetson Hills Boulevard in eastern Colorado Springs in March 2011. The family decided to bring the self-serve concept to the city after visiting a yogurt shop in California a year earlier, Liz Johnson said.

“It was the self-serve concept that I liked,” said Johnson, who has five children. “It was fun, and something I wanted to bring my kids back to.”

The shop at 5885 Stetson Hills Blvd. was an instant success, attracting 800 to 1,000 people daily, Johnson said. Those numbers have since fallen as competition from stores, such as iTopIt, Lulu’s Frozen Yogurt and Buttercup’s Frozen Yogurt, has increased.

There have been some casualties as the number of frozen yogurt shops has exploded in the Springs in the past few years; Pinkberry, for example, the Los Angeles-based chain that helped launch the latest frozen yogurt craze nationwide, opened a Springs location in 2011 but closed it the following year.

The Grzeckas started their first store with six yogurt machines, 12 flavors and four employees, Johnson said. Today they have more than 35 machines, several additional flavors and employ 80, of which about half are full time. YoYogurt’s other Springs-area locations are at 1798 W. Uintah St. and 8816 N. Union Blvd. in the Springs and 6965 Mesa Ridge Parkway in Fountain.

Contact Ned Hunter: 636-0275.