TAMPA — They had just started dating. But instead of meeting for coffee or cocktails throughout the week, Ean Mendelsohn and Jaclyn Levy would go out for frozen yogurt.
She was on the full froyo bandwagon, in the height of the 2009 fad when Tampa Bay had seemingly endless choices like Pinkberry, CaliYogurt, You Say When and Soobak Yogurt Bar. But Berryism was their favorite.
"We'd pull into the parking lot just after they closed and say, 'You know, if we owned the place we could just walk in,' " he said.
After a froyo-laden scouting trip to Arizona, Levy settled on Yogurtology, a self-service brand based in Scottsdale that was what employees of other shops said was their favorite. They bought the development rights for Florida and opened a location at a property already owned by Levy's family, located at 1202 S Church Ave, off Henderson Boulevard in South Tampa.
The big difference for the brand was that it's not marketed for children. The store's interior is clean, white colors with an open floor plan and stainless steel accents.
"You don't want adults sitting at pink and purple plastic chairs," Mendelsohn explained. He's comfortable meeting up with friends from MacDill Air Force Base for a cup of frozen yogurt.
Unlike the major brands of the time, Yogurtology is self-serve with dozens of toppings and priced by the ounce. Business was great, up until consumers began getting over the froyo craze and stores began shutting down across the country and in Tampa Bay.
"We saw a huge consolidation in the industry," Mendelsohn said. "Everyone freaked out and panicked." Competitors started cutting back their hours and eliminated fresh fruit and other perishable toppings.
Management had to assure the staff that maintaining good customer service and a premium product would get them through the crash, he said.
"We have a successful business; we're not desperate," he said. "If you grow more organically, you don't need to worry."
For years now, Yogurtology has dominated the Tampa Bay market and continues to expand. In 2013, the couple, as well as Levy's brother, Jordan, bought out the Arizona franchise owner. Earlier this year, they opened a location in Tampa International Airport's international terminal, and are starting to more seriously consider franchising outside the area.
Their business now has eight locations and more than 100 employees.
For the second year in a row, Yogurtology was named a Tampa Bay Times Top Workplace. In another repeat: It ranked No. 2 among small companies, which are those with up to 149 or fewer local employees.
Mendelsohn credited the accomplishment to the family-oriented business and management style.
"When you have committed to working as a family there's no, 'Oh, you don't work, you you've got to go,' " he explained. "We work with them on their strengths and weaknesses and find the right place where they can thrive and that's 10 times more productive than replacing them and having to retrain someone else."
Contact Alli Knothe at [email protected] Follow @KnotheA.