While frozen yogurt’s popularity in the 1980s and ’90s fizzled, business owners serving cups and cones of the soft treat today say they expect to be more than a trend.
National and regional franchises, as well as independent frozen yogurt stores, are opening across California, and are catering to consumers looking for healthier food options. The stores complement a healthier lifestyle choice, which is likely to help business longevity.
Orange County-raised Jennifer Ketels is counting on it. Once a jet-setting marketing representative for a Los Angeles ad agency representing Las Vegas casinos, Ketels often worked more than 60 hours a week, traveling constantly. When she visited the North State while doing business with Win River Casino, she fell in love with the area and seemed to know she would find her way here somehow.
“I fell in love with the community and with the people,” she says. “But business in Redding was questionable.” However, Ketels was approaching 40, wanted a baby, and didn’t want to “work to live” anymore. She felt that Redding would allow her to really be there and be an active part in her baby’s life, something her current job wouldn’t permit. So in 2008, while pregnant with son Christian, she made the move to Redding to open the first of the U-Top It stores on Churn Creek Road (the Placer store opened that August).
“I felt there was a definite void to fill,” Ketels says of her choice of business. She had done her research on the frozen yogurt industry and knew from a marketing perspective what would work, so she came up with the concept herself. She owns the brand and has recently sold licenses to open five more stores in the Washington area.
According to many business experts, whoever is going to take this trend into a lifestyle brand will be long-term winners in the industry. The level of interest in opening yogurt businesses has increased because of the simplicity of the business concept and because the business design is easily duplicable, Ketels says.
U-Top It offers a number of ever-changing flavors and toppings – including fruit, nuts and candy bar pieces – for customers to mix in. Customers can, as the name suggests, top their yogurt themselves, adding as much or as little as they want. The yogurt is then weighed to determine the price of the treat. So it really is a hands-on experience the whole family can enjoy.
And that includes Ketels’ son, now a thriving toddler. “I took whatever was dealt to me. I know that I wouldn’t have been around for Christian, working as much as I did in my other job.” Ketels says Redding has embraced her, her family (her parents also fell in love with Redding and moved here from Orange County) and her business.
“This process was hard work and I think this community appreciates hard work,” Ketels says. She is sure to give back, and is actively involved with the Shasta Women’s Refuge. She also believes strongly in education; her staff, which consists mostly of college students, can count on her to be flexible with their school schedules.
And now Ketels’ own schedule is flexible, something she didn’t have before. “Besides making the store profitable, it’s all about spending time with Christian,” she says. “Enjoy life.” Indeed.