Chicago-based frozen yogurt chain plans Baltimore expansion
Baltimore needs more frozen yogurt.
That’s the assessment of two frozen yogurt shop owners from Chicago who are bringing their self-serve concept, Forever Yogurt, to the East Coast. Within the next six months founder Mandy Calara wants to open four new shops in the Baltimore area, including one in downtown Baltimore, one in Fells Point and two in Annapolis.
Since the first Forever Yogurt shop opened in Chicago in 2010, the chain has expanded to eight locations, mostly in the Chicago area. Now, with the help of some venture capital backing, Calara, the chain’s chief executive, and co-founder Ahmad Yilmaz have launched a three-year plan to add 50 corporately owned locations and about 250 franchise operations.
Though the owners are still hunting for specific sites in Baltimore, Calara envisions shops in or near Power Plant Live and on Light Street in the Inner Harbor area, on Broadway in Fells Point and on Main Street in Annapolis.
In Chicago, Forever Yogurt shops have succeeded in lively, urban areas filled with restaurants, bars and other attractions, Calara said. He’s seeking similar spots in Baltimore, Boston, Washington D.C., Austin, Miami and possibly Manhattan. The company has already signed leases for three sites in Boston and is negotiating leases in Washington.
To help spread the brand, Forever Yogurt hopes to sign franchise agreements with some existing, independent shops.
Calara, who studied biochemistry in college before working for pharmaceutical companies and who also worked as a professional poker player, says frozen yogurt has come a long way since the 1980s. Its popularity has grown as flavors have increased and consumers have sought lower-fat alternatives to ice cream.
Today, he believes there’s plenty of room in the market, especially for self-serve operations that let customers pick their flavors, quantity and toppings. Frozen Yogurt offers selection in each shop that draw from more 80 flavors and 40 toppings.
“It’s tough to imagine something more fun and more interactive and more healthy than frozen yogurt,” Calara said.