Yogurt chain expands to D.C. with 90 flavors, 40 toppings

Forever Yogurt, a Chicago-based chain, is opening its first Washington location this spring with a 1,000-square-foot shop in Adams Morgan.

By June, the company plans to have 31 locations throughout the United States and Panama — up 10-fold from the three shops it had a year ago. The rapid expansion is being fueled by a $6 million investment from a New York-based venture capital firm.

“We feel like as long as we can find the right locations, we can make this expansion work,” said Mandy Calara, who co-founded the company in 2010.

But therein lies the challenge, he said, particularly in Washington, where homegrown brands such as FroZenYo, Tangysweet and Yogiberry have carved out a specific niche.

“D.C. has been the toughest place to find real estate in the right places,” Calara said. “There’s just not a whole lot that’s available.”

The Adams Morgan outpost at 1728 Columbia Rd. NW, he said, was a no-brainer. The company has also been looking at locations near 14th and U streets NW and on M Street in Georgetown. “Storefronts in urban areas are ideal for us — places that are close to bars, restaurants, retail, heavy foot traffic,” he said. “It’s more of an after-hours dessert than something people eat during the day.”

Forever Yogurt stores that have been open longer than a year typically bring in between $700,00 and $1.1 million in annual sales, Calara said.

Unlike chains such as Pinkberry (which has seven area locations) and Red Mango (which has four), Forever Yogurt’s self-serve model allows customers to create their own desserts by combining about 90 flavors and 40 toppings.

“People want variety, so that’s what we’re giving them,” Calara said. “The concept itself is very simple, but there are a trillion different combinations.”

Abha Bhattarai covers local retail, hospitality and banking for The Washington Post. She has previously written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times.
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