Chris Cianciulli opened his Red Mango shop at 721 Franklin Ave. in Franklin Square back in 2013 — when the popular frozen yogurt franchise was just starting to pick up steam.
At the time, there were roughly 32 Red Mango stores on Long Island. Now 10 years later, Cianciulli’s shop is one of three remaining in the region.
He and his staff celebrated this 10-year milestone on May 13 alongside several elected officials and Franklin Square community members.
“We’re the sole survivor — the little Red Mango that could on Long Island,” Cianciulli said. “It’s just a great area in Franklin Square and Elmont, it’s where I grew up, and the people are really very supportive.”
Before he opened his Red Mango store, Cianciulli said he had been volunteering for local political campaigns and worked at a headquarters located in the Eastern Meat Farms shopping center. He met a landlord of a tanning salon who was looking for a new owner.
Seeing it was a successful business, Cianciulli took over the tanning salon for about a year, until he was hit with a federal tanning tax and decided to close. He still had a 10-year lease on the space and needed to figure out how to fill it. That’s when he discovered Red Mango.
“There was really no yogurt for five or six miles at that time -- Rockville Centre was probably the closest and there was really nothing,” Cianciulli said. “I met with all different people and franchises, and I liked Red Mango the best.”
Cianciulli said he has faced some challenges along the way – Hurricane Sandy and the Covid-19 pandemic among them – but many rewarding moments outweighed the obstacles, he said.
During the height of the pandemic, the Franklin Square Red Mango gave out discounts and free items to all the hospitals, EMTs, first responders, police officers, veterans and more.
Over the past decade, the Red Mango has employed hundreds of young people from Franklin Square, Elmont, Valley Stream and West Hempstead.
Growing up in Elmont, Cianciulli said as a teenager he worked at “every single store on Dutch Broadway.” Whether it was the local pizza shop or pharmacy, he said, he didn’t take these first jobs for granted.
For many of the kids Cianciulli has hired, Red Mango was their first job. To this day, he runs into former employees who tell him the impact their time working at Red Mango has made on the rest of their professional lives.
“I learned the value of a dollar; I think it really builds character,” Cianciulli said. “How you take your first job is how you’re going to be at anything.”
Cianciulli’s advice for prospective entrepreneurs is to be willing to work and pay attention to their business. Building a strong reputation in the community is also crucial.
“If you go in my store, you’ll see every little league we sponsor, every raffle at the schools -- we give money to everybody and gift cards to everybody who asks,” Cianciulli said. “The fact that we survived and 32 other stores did not shows you how my employees worked and how we ran the store.”