If you feel like frozen yogurt shops are popping up everywhere in the Washington region, you’re right. Most emulate the model of a poplar Los Angeles-based chain that largely copied a Korean frozen yogurt company. What the frozen yogurt explosion says about the nature of food trends, and their impact on the Washington region.

Guests

  • Tim Carman Food Writer, The Washington Post
  • Steve Davis Founder, Owner, Mr. Yogato (Washington, D.C.)
  • Aaron Gordon Founder, Owner, Tangysweet (Washington, D.C.)

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Steve Davis, co-founder and co-owner of Mr. Yogato, talks about why he started the store and some of his favorite trivia questions:

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Transcript

  • MR. KOJO NNAMDIThey have become every bit as much of Washington's urban landscape as the Starbucks stores that you see, well, everywhere. Frozen yogurt stores are exploding the nation's capital. Just take a bus ride through the city's downtown corridor and you're likely to pass dozens of shops slinging out tart, frozen treats.

  • MR. KOJO NNAMDIBut the people behind these businesses will readily tell you that the tart yogurt bonanza is far from being a D.C. thing, that they're modeling their businesses after a wildly successful L.A. based chain that largely cribbed its ideas from a popular chain in Korea and that people on the West Coast have known for years that tart frozen yogurt, which some have called frozen heroin juice, practically sells itself.

  • MR. KOJO NNAMDISo it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that there's a big-time market for the stuff here in D.C. or does it? Joining us in studio is Steve Davis. He is the founder and owner of Mr. Yogato, a frozen yogurt business in Washington D.C. Steve, thank you so much for joining us.

  • MR. STEVE DAVISYes, thanks a lot for having me.

  • NNAMDIAlso with us is Aaron Gordon. He is the founder and owner of Tangysweet, a frozen yogurt business also in Washington D.C. Aaron, thanks and I'll start with you. You're a local guy. You grew up in D.C. You went to Wilson High School. Probably while I was sitting in this studio, you were right across the street at Wilson High School.

  • NNAMDIBut the story behind your business and the larger D.C. tart yogurt story itself is a West Coast story that begins in Los Angeles. What did you see on the West Coast and when did you decide to bring that idea here to Washington?

  • MR. AARON GORDONWell, yes, that's exactly right. I actually did grow up here, but I moved to Los Angeles for about 10 years. And as I was there, I was in marketing. But as I was going, I fell in love with frozen yogurt. A new shop called Pink Berry, I'm sure with -- a lot of your listeners are familiar with, had popped up and opened its first store in up in East Hollywood.

  • MR. AARON GORDONMy sister, who is a lot more trendy and on top of things than I am, dragged me, somewhat kicking and screaming. If you've been in Los Angeles, going from the West side to East Hollywood is a long, long trip. And she wanted to take me to this brand-new frozen yogurt phenomenon. So after about an hour through traffic, I got there and saw there was about 30 people in line. And got angry once again, but waited in line and went in there and had the frozen yogurt with blueberries and raspberries and really absolutely fell in love with it.

  • MR. AARON GORDONIt was a fantastic treat and it was a great opportunity. After I sold my marketing business, I really wanted to come home back to D.C. and there was no frozen yogurt here at the time. So I thought it was just a really wonderful opportunity to bring something fun and do something that I wanted to do with a product that I love so I opened my first store there on a DuPont Circle.

  • NNAMDIIt's important to note that the tart frozen yogurt that places like Pink Berry and Red Mango made famous is not very similar to the frozen yogurt that places like TCBY started selling in the '70s and '80s. How would you describe tart frozen yogurt and why do you think it's become so popular?

  • GORDONWell, tart frozen yogurt, of course, the main distinction is that it's not nearly as sweet as the TCBYs of old. It's actually funny because it's an Italian product from the beginning and it was originally introduced back in the 1980s to the United States. But of course, Americans had such a sweet tooth from ice cream that it was rejected and it actually turned into TCBY, which was much more of a sweet product.

  • GORDONNow, this product without the sweetness tastes a lot more like yogurt. It really has that wonderful yogurt taste, almost like a Greek yogurt and it goes really perfectly with fresh fruits and other toppings. You know, my favorites are fresh seasonal raspberries and strawberries and blueberries and pineapples and it just makes a wonderful, fresh taste and it's just something that we haven't had before and it's a great treat. It's something you can have every day. It's so sweet and overly unhealthy.

  • NNAMDIIf you have your own opinion about frozen yogurt, what do you think explains the recent boom of tart frozen yogurt in the Washington area and for that matter, throughout the country? Call us at 800-433-8850 or send us a tweet at kojoshow, e-mail to kojo@wamu.org. 800-433-8850.

  • NNAMDISteve, you are quite literally a rocket scientist. It's my understanding that you moved to the D.C. area from Los Angeles several years ago and that you and your friends decided to open up a yogurt store because you missed the kind of yogurt that you could get in L.A. What was it about the West Coast fro-yo that you missed and how did you come up with the concept that ultimately became Mr. Yogato?

  • DAVISSure. So I was working for an airspace company called SpaceX, S-P-A-C-E-X, out in California and we worked very long hours and we would always take a yogurt break almost on a daily basis, usually to Pink Berry, much like Aaron. And so I probably had it over the course of three years, probably about 1,000 times. I spent a lot there. And when I came out to Washington, still working for the same company, SpaceX, at the time, there was no frozen yogurt stores.

  • NNAMDIHave to get your fix.

  • DAVISExactly. So the obvious solution was to open a frozen yogurt store.

  • NNAMDIIt's my understanding that you opened up a yogurt store, but that you labored pretty hard to come up with a recipe for your yogurt, that you went through about 80 batches before you got it right. What went into the process and how did you finally settled on your recipe?

  • DAVISYes, 82 to be exact. We had absolutely no idea what we were doing so it was complete brute force trial and error. Just would mix, you know, milk and sugar and yogurt together and it would taste terrible and then we would it again and it would taste a little better and then after 82, we finally hit it.

  • NNAMDIAaron, you've said the recipe really isn't rocket science at all and that, in fact, most stores use a real good base from an Italian company PreGel. What was your approach to coming up with a recipe?

  • GORDONWell, much like Steve, it was quite a bit of trial and error. When you're opening your first restaurant of any kind, even if it's a frozen yogurt store, you find yourself quite -- just going through the recipes over and over again 'til you find something that you really love.

  • GORDONOf course, being, you know, having a taste for the West Coast style from companies we mentioned, Pink Berry and Red Mango, you know, I quite liked their products. It's sort of just a measure of between how icy versus how creamy your product is. And for my tastes, I like it a little bit more icy, but still with a great yogurt taste with a clean finish. So it was just a matter of finding that taste and, as Steve said, just trying it over and over again 'til you got it right.

  • NNAMDIIn case you're just joining us, it's a "Food Wednesday" conversation about frozen yogurt with Aaron Gordon, founder and owner of Tangysweet, a frozen yogurt business in Washington and Steve Davis, the founder and owner of Mr. Yogato, also a frozen yogurt business in Washington D.C.

  • NNAMDISteve, it seems that a big part of this new fro-yo experience is that the consumer has so much control over the final product and stores like yours and stores like Aaron's offer infinitively more toppings than you do flavors of yogurt, toppings that run the gamut from strawberries to gummy worms to Old Bay seasoning. And I got to tell you, our web producer and stopper and producer, Michael Martinez, visited Mr. Yogato yesterday. You can find a video interview of Steve inside his store at our website, kojoshow.org.

  • NNAMDIAt Steve's suggestion, Ann and Michael tried yogurt topped with Old Bay seasoning and they readily admit it was delicious but they are two very strange people. Would ordinary people like this?

  • DAVISAbsolutely. I think you're exactly right. all of the yogurt stores with Aaron's and mine and the others have lots and lots of toppings. I think we have 103 right now.

  • NNAMDIHow'd you come up with Old Bay seasoning?

  • DAVISI like it on chicken, might as well try it on yogurt.

  • NNAMDIBut they thought it was really great and they liked it.

  • DAVISIt's surprisingly good. There's a lot of failures but that one worked.

  • NNAMDIOver the years what toppings have you discovered go particularly well with Fro-Yo and which topping suggestions are you willing to admit are actually kind of bad, gross. First you, Aaron.

  • GORDONWell, you know, I got to say that Steve's store, Mr. Yogato, is a lot more experimental than my store. They've got some great flavors and some very different items but, you know, a lot of the items come up actually from our customers who come in and tell us they'd like to see this, that or the other and often times we give it a try.

  • GORDONSometimes it works, sometimes it falls really flat. One of our favorite toppings from all of our customers is actually a -- well, really it's the fruit toppings, the very favorites. We do have honey, we do have caramel, we have a lot of fun things like crackers -- animal crackers is one the favorites. So there's really all types, you know. We rarely find -- don't find a particular topping that falls completely flat.

  • NNAMDISteve, you also take suggestions from your customers about potential toppings. What are the some of the -- how can I put this -- less expected ones that you got?

  • DAVISI think the best one is -- one customer likes to order a yogurt that he calls The Hawaiian Pizza, which is pineapple and bacon bits. So I personally think it is awful but he likes it so we stock the bacon bits and it's one of our toppings.

  • NNAMDII was about to suggest a chow mien topping myself. Nobody ever suggested a chow mien topping. A lot of people seem to like Fro-Yo because they think it's healthy. Don't some of these toppings work against that whole concept, if you're going to have bacon bits on top of your frozen yogurt?

  • DAVISWell, there's no question. Some people like it healthy and some people like it a little bit less so. it's actually kind of fun because you can go in there and you can say, I'm going to have something healthy today. Maybe I'll replace the hamburger I would normally have had and put on a fresh fruit.

  • DAVISBut certainly, once you start putting on the chocolate and chocolate chips and the mochi [sp?] and everything like that it can become a little less healthy. But overall, it's really the customer's choice.

  • NNAMDIWell, apparently it's not as -- it doesn't have as many calories for you as ice cream. it's not exactly, on the other hand, a health food but it's my understanding, Steve, one of your customers recently recommended olive oil as a topping. How'd that work out?

  • DAVISSurprisingly well, much like the Old Bay. If it's olive oil plus basil, it's kind of like a savory form of the frozen yogurt.

  • NNAMDIFascinating idea. Here's Mario, in Fairfax, Va. Mario, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • MARIOYes, I went to UCLA and I saw a lot of the frozen yogurt places open. I was in L.A. for 14 years and I just wonder as a business owner, do you worry about the sustainability? Because it seems to me, DuPont Circle or Tyson's Corner, where you see a preponderance of these places opening aren't places with cheap overhead and so do you worry about that when you look at your business plan?

  • NNAMDIFirst you, Aaron?

  • GORDONWell, actually, I mean, when Steve and I came in, we opened our stores there weren't any competitors in the whole city and we opened our stores basically back-to-back.

  • GORDONSo we were the first ones here and we were met with a tremendous amount of success and, as you say, over the last three years since we opened our stores there has been quite a few competitors coming in, even some of the longer term L.A. shops.

  • GORDONIt really comes down to having a great product, listening to your customers and also, of course, as they say, location. If you have a great location and a great product you can sort of withstand the competition.

  • GORDONBut there's no question, there is becoming a little bit of a saturation in the market and I think when we come to a point where there's probably not room for another competitor.

  • NNAMDIWhat do you say, Steve?

  • DAVISYes, you know, I agree with Aaron. At the time it was June 2008, we were the first two and now, I believe, in D.C. proper there's probably about 25 to 30. so, yes, it's definitely a lot more competition and I think at this point it's really relying on really loyal customers who really appreciate our stores.

  • NNAMDIHere is Patricia, in Solomon's Island, Md. Patricia, you're on the air, go ahead please.

  • PATRICIAHello, Kojo. Thank you for taking my call. I had something I wanted to tell you. I live in Solomon's Island now and it is a suburb of D.C. but it's a hike. It's 45 miles probably. My husband works for the federal government and commutes everyday but he also travels a lot for his work.

  • PATRICIAI am a frozen yogurt addict and have been ever since the days of -- back like you said, TCBY. But when we travel we go to San Francisco, San Diego, Phoenix, everywhere. I'm always hunting down the frozen yogurt because I love it.

  • PATRICIASo I have an iPhone. There's an app on your iPhone that all you do is put in your zip code and it tells you where all the frozen yogurt shops are around you. When we're on the West Coast, there's 10 or something in 10 miles.

  • PATRICIAWhere I live, it used to be 70 miles to the closet frozen yogurt. They have finally opened one in Annapolis, so that's only 45 miles from my house if I want a frozen yogurt. So what you're saying about coming to the East Coast, I guess it's finally happening.

  • NNAMDIAnd I'm glad for you because you don't have to go into Fro-Yo rehab because when you're in this area anymore, Patricia. Thank you so much for your call.

  • PATRICIAYou can tell all your listeners to put it on their iPhone and they'll be able to find the closest frozen yogurt place. Thanks for taking my call.

  • NNAMDIThose of our listeners who do have iPhones. Thank you very much for your call, Patricia. Some people will remember that TCBY stands for This Can't Be Yogurt. Well, a few years ago, Pink Berry was hit with a lawsuit that claimed the yogurt it was selling was not, in fact, yogurt. What was that dispute about, Aaron, and what would you say about the yogurt that you sell?

  • GORDONYes, Pink Berry was hit with that. The actual -- to be considered frozen yogurt, you have to have some millions per gram of yogurt cultures and that's actually only a certain few states. California being one of those states. If you look back at all the TCBYs and McDonald's and everybody else who served frozen yogurt, actually none of them were in that category of so many millions per gram of yogurt cultures. So, yes, they were hit and -- but again, that's only in California.

  • NNAMDIWhat sense do you get from your customers about whether or not it really matters to them that what they're getting is technically yogurt, Steve?

  • DAVISOn a typical week, I'd say maybe one or two customers ask and then we just explain, you know, what's in it, how we make it and then usually they seem to order the product following that.

  • NNAMDIYes, I thought as much. Here's Elizabeth, in Washington D.C.

  • ELIZABETHHi. I'm calling because I think, Kojo, that you hit on it, that the reason that people love frozen yogurt so much is because they think it's really healthy for them, and that it also tastes like ice cream. But really how healthy is it? I mean, even -- even without the toppings, you know, does it have a lot of sugar?

  • NNAMDII have a quote. I have a quote. American Dietetic Association spokeswoman, Katherine Tallmadge, who has indulged in Tangysweet, said that the new tart yogurts are healthier than ice cream, healthier even than most traditional frozen yogurt, but that does not make them health foods, so to speak. How does that sound to you, Elizabeth?

  • ELIZABETHRight. Right. That sounds right. So basically, I think that the reason there's such a craze is because it's kind of like, you know, you can have ice cream, but feel good about it.

  • NNAMDIYeah. I think you're just about right on that. We got an e-mail from Laura in Nashville who says, "I think frozen yogurt is amazing, and I'm thrilled that people Steve and Aaron took the initiative to bring stores to D.C. You've mentioned the boom in frozen yogurt stores recently. I was wondering, have Steve and Aaron experienced any challenges with the market getting too saturated? How do they differentiate their stores from all others?"

  • NNAMDIWell, Laura is actually a former intern of ours, Laura Dolba [sp?] , who is in Tennessee. She says, "I miss everyone at 'Kojo Show.' We have great frozen yogurt in Nashville if you guys want to take a field trip." But talk a little bit about the challenges and how you deal with that?

  • GORDONThat's right. Absolutely. Since we first came in, there has been, as we mentioned before, quite a bit more competition coming in. And again, it really comes down to location, providing a great product, but it also comes down to your style of shop. Is it a fun shop to be in? I know I've been into Steve's shop, Mr. Yogato, quite a bit, and he presents a very fun sort of experience where you can go in and play all sorts of games and it makes it very different from the rest of the shop, and it's a great shop.

  • GORDONAs far as mine, we have a great neighborhood and a great following, and great customers. We actually have a very cool interior filled with LED changing lights that change throughout the day and night, look particularly cool at night. Actually, we won an Architecture Institute for America award for best interior architecture for our frozen yogurt store, which is an actually an amazing thing considering they usually got to larger restaurants or buildings.

  • GORDONSo that was really exciting. And so it really comes down to presenting a different kind of environment, a different kind of store and, of course, being great to the customers.

  • NNAMDIWell, you should know that Steve runs his business from a different rule book, literally. One we'll be going into when we get back because we've got all kinds of trivia questions for Steve. But you can still call us at 800-433-8850. What do you think of the sustainability of Washington's frozen yogurt boom? Is fro-yo here to stay or is it a passing fad?

  • NNAMDIShare your thoughts at 800-433-8850. When we come back, we'll also be joined by a winner of the James Beard Award. We'll keep his name secret until we come back. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • NNAMDIIt's a "Food Wednesday" conversation on frozen yogurt with Aaron Gordon, founder and owner of Tangysweet, a frozen yogurt business in Washington and Steve Davis, founder and owner of Mr. Yogato, frozen yogurt business also in Washington D.C. And we are being joined now by -- from studios at the Washington Post by Tim Carman.

  • NNAMDIHe's a food writer for the Washington Post and the winner of a James Beard award this year for food column writing for a column he wrote when he was at Washington City Paper. Tim Carman, thank you for joining us. Congratulations. And were you sober at the awards ceremony this year? Tim Carman, are you there?

  • MR. TIM CARMANI -- can you hear me?

  • NNAMDIYes. We can now.

  • CARMANYes. I was sober. In fact, I didn't get to the ceremony until after it started so I was dead sober.

  • NNAMDIOh, we're glad. Because when Brendan Sweeney accepted on behalf of "The Kojo Nnamdi Show" last year at the awards ceremony, Tim Carman reported on it, but couldn't remember some of the details he said because well, there was a little wine there. Tim, people have called...

  • CARMANYou are never gonna let me live that down are you, Kojo? Never.

  • NNAMDIPeople have called tart fro-yo, particularly the fro-yo at Pink Berry, everything from frozen heroin juice, to the yogurt that's launched a million parking tickets. As a food critic, Tim, what's your overall opinion of the product of tart frozen yogurt?

  • CARMANI like it. I mean, what's -- really what's there not to like about it? It has a nice little tartness. It's sweet. It's a nice dessert, and you can feel, I guess, sort of good about eating it given the -- if you believe in the sort of probiotic relationship with yogurt and what it's supposed to do. And it's supposed to help with your digestive track.

  • NNAMDIWhat sense do you get, Tim, so far, about how the product varies from store to store? Are there places that are making tart yogurt that's substantively better than the yogurt at other places?

  • CARMANI think that takes a fairly sophisticated palate. I think Aaron was talking earlier about the sort of icy versus creamy. And I agree that there is sort of qualitative differences if you really want to concentrate. You know, I think ultimately it's not -- people don't decide -- it's my guess -- it's just a guess, but I don't think people decide so much on those kind of characteristics, and decide more on sort of almost like a lifestyle decision.

  • CARMANLike, Pink Berry has got such a name and such a reputation, and when you walk into their shop, it has such a distinctive sort of modern, sleek appeal, that, you know, it's like -- it's like you decide to align yourself with that sort of lifestyle as opposed to say Steve's Mr. Yogato, which feels sort of like, I don't know, a rec room that has toys and happens to serve yogurt.

  • CARMANIt's kind of a fun, family-oriented space. So I think a lot of the decisions probably come down to where you feel comfortable and what's close to you where you live.

  • NNAMDISpeaking of Steve's store, let's go to Laura in Washington D.C. Laura, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • LAURAHi, Kojo. I'm just calling to make a comment about Steve's store, Mr. Yogato, and how much fun it is to go there. I try almost every day, but, you know, I love frozen yogurt, but just to go there and have some fun. It just sort of brings my spirits up. I lived in Chicago for a year and missed Mr. Yogato very, very much. So I'm happy to be back.

  • NNAMDIWhat is this fun that people are talking about? Steve, you run your business from a different rule book, literally. The rules of Yogato are listed on your website and displayed prominently on a white board in your store. How would you describe the rules of Yogato?

  • DAVISOh, well, first, thanks, Laura, so much for the nice comment, and definitely say hi next time you're in the store. I'm there all the time.

  • LAURAWe will, thank you.

  • DAVISSo yeah. So when Mr. Yogato was started, it was started by a group of friends, including myself, who just decided to make it into a very goofball, fun store. So we have a bunch of rules posted on the wall, which is ways to get discounts. And not to go through them all, but to list two of the best ones, if you go into the store and you recite the "Braveheart" speech from the Sterling Battlefield in the movie "Braveheart" in a really good Scottish accent, you'll get 20 percent off your yogurt.

  • DAVISYou can also get stamps on your forehead, order in different accents, or answer a trivia question for a discount. Although, with the trivia, if you actually get it wrong, we're gonna raise your price. So it's actually a bet.

  • NNAMDIThere's another. If anyone can stump Steve on trivia regarding "Seinfeld" or the movie, "The Rock," 10 percent off your yogurt, and there are "Seinfeld" megachallenges. Bring any "Seinfeld" minor character into the store for a picture with the Yogato tie, and receive 10 free yogurts, or all you can eat for a week. And create an edible Yogato pasta structure and receive a discount and percentage points equal to the height in centimeters of the figure. Well, I've got a couple of "Seinfeld" trivia questions for you, if you don't mind.

  • DAVISOh, no. Fire away.

  • NNAMDIWhen Elaine seeks revenge on the Soup Nazi, she reads a list of ingredients of the Soup Nazi's secret recipe to him. What is the first ingredient she lists and how much of that ingredient does the recipe call for?

  • DAVISI believe it's Porcini mushrooms.

  • NNAMDIOoh, yeah.

  • DAVISBut how much...

  • NNAMDIYes.

  • DAVISI think it's two cups.

  • NNAMDINope. Five cups.

  • DAVISFive cups.

  • NNAMDITen percent off for somebody.

  • DAVISThat's a really tough question.

  • NNAMDIWhen Jerry is making a very difficult decision, choosing between doing the voice and his girlfriend, what song is playing in the background?

  • DAVISOh, I don't know the name. It's all those birds that are flying around. You stumped me. Twenty percent off.

  • NNAMDIHello by Lionel Richie.

  • DAVISThat's right.

  • NNAMDIAnd finally there's this. Newman claims -- and Newman, by the way, is my favorite "Seinfeld" character, because I just love to watch Newman run. Being naturally a coward, Newman was always running from something, and he had a lot of speed. Newman claims that he is part French. How French does he claim to be?

  • DAVISI have absolutely no idea. This is embarrassing.

  • NNAMDINewman claims to be one-quarter French. So those are just some of the things you can find to stump Steve Davis at Mr. Yogato. He joins us in studio. Back to the telephone. Here is Nora in Arlington, Va. Nora, you are on the air. Go ahead, please. We worked hard on these "Seinfeld" questions.

  • DAVISThose were so hard.

  • NNAMDINora, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • NORAThanks. I just had a couple of memories. I grew up in the D.C. area, and was actually born in Georgetown and raised in Arlington, and rode on the Potomac River. And we used to go for frozen yogurt at a place -- now, this is stretching my memory. It was called, I think, the Bridge Street Cafe, and it was on the end of Georgetown that's very near where the Francis Scott Key, you know, bridge park is.

  • NORAAnd it served frozen tart yogurt with, like, fresh cut fruit on top. This was in like 1978, '79, and it was fabulous. And I've dreamt about it, so that -- literally over the years, so that when you guys opened, it was bonanza. Finally, my dreams have been fulfilled. But it predates that whole frozen yogurt thing. In fact, I remember when the TCBY craze hit, I thought, you're just missing the point. The fabulous stuff is unsweetened.

  • NORABut they -- Booeymongers, I think, as well. It was a little café, either Booeymongers itself, or a predecessor to it, right in that space in...

  • NNAMDII don't know. Tim Carman is the culinary historian here. Tim Carman...

  • NORAWell, it -- they served goat's milk frozen yogurt. We made a pilgrimage as a family, and this was in like 1974. And these were all -- I think the flavors they were channeling were sort of hippie, and it was like goat's milk and fresh fruit. So anyway, these are -- these are memories of...

  • NNAMDITim Carman, in your diligent research, have you uncovered anything about what Nora's talking about it?

  • CARMANThat's interesting. I have not heard what Nora's talking about.

  • NNAMDIOkay.

  • CARMANI know Booeymonger -- I believe they have a frozen yo currently in their establishment, but...

  • NORAWell, this was -- this was ages ago. I mean, literally, it was back in like -- and the goat's milk was like -- it was a brief experiment. I don't know that it was well received.

  • NNAMDIOkay. Well, thank you for very much for sharing that with us, Nora. Tim Carman, where does the fro-yo explosion fit into the overall conversation of well, stuff that Washington's copying from other cities where it's already popular?

  • CARMANWell, that doesn't give us a whole lot of credit now, does it, Kojo?

  • NNAMDINo, it doesn't.

  • CARMANI, you know, I think like any city, I don't think D.C. is unique in that. I think anytime there is a trend, it gets picked up upon, particularly if it is a product that people want. And clearly, people want fro-yo. I mean, it seems to be a snack that doesn't go away. I mean, I think the really interesting thing is, and Aaron pointed this out to me when we talked a year or so ago about the article, it was like, how do these shops survive during the winter?

  • CARMANAnd that is when people's appetite for fro-yo goes down, and that is the time when the true business person really shines because you have to survive during a very bleak period for people's, you know, appetite for fro-yo.

  • NNAMDIAaron, what was your answer to that question?

  • GORDONThat's a tough one, you know. No matter how good the product is, no matter how beloved frozen yogurt is right now, and I think always will be, when the winter months come around, it makes it a lot tougher. The diehards will still come back and come back almost every day, but our business is cut probably in half. I have the good fortune to own another shop called Red Velvet. It's a cupcake shop.

  • GORDONSo we do sell cupcakes during those winter months, and that works well for us. Or actually just sort of -- our customers during the winter naturally go from Tangysweet to Red Velvet. But, you know, in some ways, you just have to sort of weather the storm during those winter months.

  • NNAMDISteve, how does your other attributes in your store help you through the winter months? It's my understanding you've got an old-fashioned -- an old-school Nintendo at your store, and that you operate on the honor system as far as how you let people play and pick what games they want to play. Does that help?

  • DAVISI'm not sure it helps, and we do pretty poorly in the winter, to be frank. But it's a fun place to hang out as well. So if you want to come in and play Connect Four or Nintendo, Super Mario Brothers, whichever, it's a good place to hang out.

  • NNAMDIWhat's the verdict with you, Tim Carman? Is tart fro-yo just a passing fad or is it here to stay?

  • CARMANWell, I mean, if history is a guide, look how many TCBYs there are. You know, there are very few any more, and it's a trend that came and went essentially. I mean, I think you can still find a few outlets. Whether the same thing will happen for fro-yo, I don't know. I think the -- again, just to -- my guess, but I would say that the American appetite for this dessert based on this idea that it's healthy, it's gonna be around for a while.

  • NNAMDIWell, the megachains…

  • CARMANI mean, just look -- I mean, Kojo, just look at your local supermarket and its freezer case. Now, this is not frozen yogurt, but it's like this so-called Greek-style yogurt, and it is has, like, taken over the dairy section.

  • NNAMDIIt sure has.

  • CARMANI mean, there must be, like, 40 different varieties of that stuff out there now. This stuff is not going away any time soon.

  • NNAMDIWell, let's get a validation from Alan in Burke, Va. Alan, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • ALANHi, Kojo. Thanks for accepting my call. And I'm a ninth generation Washingtonian, and I did eat goat's milk yogurt over at the original Booeymongers in Georgetown in 1969, and it was delicious.

  • NNAMDIThank you so much, Alan, for validating our earlier call here. It's one of the things we do here on the broadcast. Thank you so much for your call. And just briefly, megachains have arrived here. Pink Berry opened its first store in the D.C. area last year. But Aaron, you said in an interview in 2010 that you think Pink Berry is gonna get killed here. You got about 20 seconds to say why.

  • GORDONWell, actually, to be quite frank, I think they missed their own party. They did a great job in building out in Los Angeles and New York, but...

  • NNAMDIBy the time they got here, you were here?

  • GORDONBy the time they got here, Steven and I were here already. It was too late.

  • NNAMDIAnd the brand name does not -- may not mean that much in this area. Aaron Gordon is the founder and owner of Tangysweet, a frozen business in Washington. Aaron, thank you for joining us.

  • GORDONThank you so much. It's been a pleasure.

  • NNAMDISteve Davis is the founder and owner of Mr. Yogato. Steve, thank you for joining us.

  • DAVISOh, thanks so much.

  • NNAMDITim Carman is a food writer for the Washington Post. Tim Carman, thank you for joining us.

  • CARMANThank you, Kojo.

  • NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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