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Savoring scoops of sea salt caramel pretzel

Rochester Business Journal
July 13, 2012

YoTality, a frozen yogurt shop on Main Street in Pittsford, is Eugene and Susan O'Donovan's way of taking something positive out of a difficult time.
 
"Our daughter was in a skiing accident around Thanksgiving time in Colorado, and she was in the hospital for two weeks; it was very serious," says Susan O'Donovan, owner. "We loved a yogurt shop we saw in Richmond, Va., so it was always in the back of my mind. But then she was in the hospital, and the food gets old, so I was running out getting her yogurt every day."
 
No strangers to the business scene, the O'Donovans came with experience. The couple had launched Montana Mills, a whole grain bread chain, 15 years ago, and opened more than 30 locations before selling it to Krispy Kreme Doughnuts in 2003.
 
When they decided to establish Sunny Side Enterprises Inc., which does business as YoTality, Eugene, 52, and Susan, 47, made it a family project. Their three children got to pick everything from the logo to the flavors and toppings. Based on an a la carte system, YoTality patrons can select yogurt flavors and add toppings, paying 52 cents per ounce.
 
"We came up with the name ourselves, YoTality, meaning energy, vitality, happiness, health and balance and just approaching life with a healthy outlook," Susan O'Donovan says.
 
The owners got the store up and running in 90 days, a feat they say can be attributed to their years of experience in the food business. YoTality opened April 13. The O'Donovans say the outlet serves at least 1,000 people on weekends.
 
"We are definitely trying to brand ourselves as the healthiest and best product out there," Eugene O'Donovan says. "One of the things we're talking about is combining yogurt with some of our baking background and baking fresh cookies every day.
 
"So we're experimenting with that right now and just really kind of setting ourselves apart-the quality of our product, the quality of our yogurt, which is what I work on, and Suzy works on the toppings."
 
YoTality's toppings range from granola and fruit to cheesecake bits and gummy worms. Susan O'Donovan says the shop offers more high-quality toppings than other yogurt shops might, which gives customers more freedom to choose.
 
"What's so great about this concept is that it's up to them," Susan O'Donovan says. "Everybody has their choice. They can take something healthy, or they can take something healthy and put a little bit of bad on it. ... I think that's so fun. Or you can come in for lunch and get it loaded with fruit and granola."
 
The O'Donovans work with Sugar Creek Foods, a manufacturer based in Arkansas, to create flavors and yogurt.
 
"Since we've been open, we've featured 20-plus flavors in seven weeks, and we have another 20 flavors we are filtering in," Eugene O'Donovan says. "We need to have the basic ones, vanilla and chocolate, but then we'll mix it up with the new flavors."
 
Recently the shop debuted its sea salt caramel pretzel yogurt. Eugene O'Donovan says at first people were hesitant to try unique flavors, but now if the store pulls one off the line, people ask for it again. The owners welcome feedback and say their goal is to satisfy as many people as they can.
 
While the O'Donovans have yet to use professional marketing for YoTality, they say the word of mouth in a place like Rochester can get a business off to a good start. They are working on developing a website and a mobile application. In the future they hope to add more locations.
 
"People are starting to welcome the health benefits of yogurt, and it has really gone through a rebirth," Eugene O'Donovan says. "We'd like to be part of that rebirth because New York hasn't been saturated with this business yet."

Megan Goldschmidt is a Rochester Business Journal intern.7/13/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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