Pinkberry never stood a chance in Boston’s Little Italy. As resistance mounted, its windows were smashed shortly before its opening, workers and residents clashed, and a man in a ski mask was seen on surveillance video dumping trash on the frozen yogurt chain’s front doorstep.
Late last month, Pinkberry shuttered after three years, leaving the owners and landlord feuding about the rent — and residents wondering what went wrong.
The answer to that, many said, is quite simple: The close-knit North End — the land of cannoli and gelato — had no interest in adding a frozen yogurt franchise to its dessert menu. Especially infuriating to residents: It was across the street from a longtime gelateria.
“People do not come to the North End for frozen yogurt,’’ said Damien D. DiPaola, owner of Carmelina’s, which is steps from the closed Pinkberry store. “They come for the gelato, cannolis, Napoleons . . . and all the good Italian pastries. They do not come for Pinkberry.”
Trippe Lonian, the chief executive officer for the Pinkberry franchise owner, said neighborhood resistance and poor performance forced it to close.
“We tried to carry the store for as long as we possibly could. It was difficult,’’ Lonian said. “We tried for three years. We had different products, different managers, different teams. Frankly it hurts’’ to shut down.
The changing demographics of the Italian enclave had seemed to promise greater tolerance for outsiders. The old faces of the North End have long disappeared, and the apartments dotting the narrow streets are now filled with college students and young professionals.
Many of them — who did not want a bar or restaurant — welcomed a frozen yogurt chain, but business owners were not happy, DiPaola said.
“The majority of the Italian business owners were not happy with the fact that the landlord — who also is an Italian guy that was from the neighborhood years ago — chose to rent it out to someone corporate like Pinkberry, a big chain like that,’’ said DiPaola, who also owns Vito’s Tavern. “There’s beauty in having our little ethnic neighborhoods.”
It was not the first case of a major national chain coming into the neighborhood known for family-run shops. Residents have gotten used to a pair of 7-Elevens and the CVS, but the emergence of food and beverage chains like Peet’s Coffee and Tea still cause worry among neighbors that pieces of their community’s Old World feel are being stripped away.
Pinkberry opened at 285 Hanover St. in August 2013, and immediately there were problems. Days before the opening, the store’s windows were smashed.
On the eve of its grand opening, workers handed out complimentary tart frozen yogurt to people who stood in line, according to northendwaterfront.com, a blog that chronicled the chain’s opening and closing.
But tensions simmered in the neighborhood.
Pinkberry’s green-and-blue-striped sign was jarring amid the Italian ambiance. It did not help that the Pinkberry was located across from Gigi Gelateria, with its tubs of enticing pistachio, mango, and limoncello.
Lonian said he had been excited to open the Pinkberry in the North End, which flourishes with tourists at all hours. But the company kept losing money, and the neighborhood’s cold reception did not help, he said.
Lonian described smashed windows, workers being intimidated by people coming into the store to confront them, and video footage showing people throwing trash bags from the curb at the store’s front door.
“I’ve got 20-year-old kids in the store, and I just wanted them to feel safe and secure while we are trying to sell yogurt. We don’t have that problem anywhere else but in the North End,’’ said Lonian, whose company NE Frog Pond LLC owns nine Pinkberry stores in Massachusetts and one in Connecticut.
DiPaola, the restaurant owner who also lives in the neighborhood, said he was upset that Pinkberry workers let trash linger on the sidewalk and in the street, did not sweep up like other store owners, and were difficult to deal with.
“Pinkberry was a pain in the [neck] and an eyesore from day one,’’ DiPaola said. “It was not a good neighbor.”
Pinkberry seemed that it would be a lucrative tenant to Mario and Brigitte Corsaro, the building’s landlords, who now live in Stoneham, their son Sandro Corsaro said.
Mario Corsaro had been a fixture in the North End as the owner of Varese Shoes, which in its heyday had been one of the few remaining institutions that helped define the immigrant neighborhood.
He is now 92, and the rent Pinkberry agreed to pay would have provided stability and a cushion for the elder Corsaros, their son said.
Sandro Corsaro, who lives in California, said he and his sister, who lives in London, felt assured when a realtor approached the family about a Pinkberry leasing the old shoe store site.
A big chain would bring steady money, they were told. And Pinkberry promised to pay nearly $8,000 each month in rent and signed a 10-year lease, Lonian acknowledged.
“It all looked good on paper,’’ Sandro Corsaro said. “In California, there’s a Pinkberry on every street. We were hoping we’d catch the wave.”
The North End/Waterfront Neighborhood Council gave its approval, welcoming a different type of dessert offering than typically found in the neighborhood.
“Pinkberry offered diversity,’’ longtime resident Phil Orlandella said. “One of the [reasons] the community supported the chain was because the community dynamics were changing.”
But not everyone felt so welcoming, and the incidents and cool reception continued.
After three years, Pinkberry closed. Mario Corsaro said Pinkberry has not paid rent in six months and that he’s owed hundreds of thousands of dollars because Pinkberry still has seven years left on its 10-year lease, the family said.
“I find this personally distasteful,’’ said Sandro Corsaro, blaming poor management at Pinkberry. “My father is a 92-year-old man. And he put his arms around these guys.”
The local business owners may not have paid as much for rent, DiPaola said, but they would have stayed.
Lonian said the company is aggressively trying to negotiate a resolution with the landlord. The firm spent more than $450,000 to open the Hanover Street store, but it lost a lot of money, he said.
It was the only store in the state, he said, where he has had to assure parents of his employees who began complaining after seeing disparaging remarks about the North End Pinkberry on Facebook.
“I’ve had to go to the local city rep and say, ‘We are having a problem; how do we deal with it?’ ” he said. “We never had to do that anywhere else.”
Correction: Because of a reporting error and incorrect information in city records, the last name and address of a landlord in an earlier version of this story were incorrect. The landlords’ names are Mario and Brigitte Corsaro. They live in Stoneham. Their son is Sandro Corsaro.