Sweet taste of success for Sweet Frog

Since opening last summer, Sweet Frog, the self-serve frozen yogurt place on the Downtown Mall, has been been pumping out the stuff as fast as folks can work the handles on the store's bank of yogurt machines. Plans are already in the works for another location in the Barracks Road Shopping Center, and, according to Sweet Frog's owners, the owner of the original Sweet Frog in Short Pump is planning to open a store in the Hollymead Town Center.

What's more, the Sweet Frog franchise, which wasn't even a franchise when the Mall store opened, has taken off.

According to Sweet Frog co-owner Giovanni Sestito, who also owns Vita Nova pizzeria, it's all because of the Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review.


Readers might recall that the Downtown Mall Sweet Frog store opening was delayed nearly eight months because the building's owner, Joe Gieck, demolished the historic facade of the building, once home to the Victory Shoe Store, without BAR approval.

Originally, Sestito and partner Robert Lupica had planned to call their Downtown yogurt shop Yofina, but during the long delay caused by the unauthorized demo, a frozen yogurt shop in Short Pump, which had been open for about a year, went up for sale. Sestito says Lupica wanted to buy the Short Pump Sweet Frog and eventually hand over Yofina to him, so Lupica bought a half interest of the Short Pump store, with the original owner retaining the rights to the name. Eventually, Sestito and Lupica decided to call their Downtown Mall store Sweet Frog as well, recognizing that it was a catchy name, and one that kids seemed to like.

"The owner of the Short Pump store wanted to get out of the yogurt business," says Sestito, shaking his head. "What happened was a total accident."

Last April, Sestito says, a woman from Chester approached Derek Cha and his wife, Mi Jung Kim, the Short Pump store owners, and asked if they would be interested in selling her the concept so she could open her own Sweet Frog.

Since then, 28 Sweet Frog stores have open across Virginia and North Carolina, and there are plans to open new stores in Tennessee, Louisiana,  and South Carolina.

"It's all the result of that delay because of the facade," Sestito explains. "It's crazy."

As Cha told Richmond Business Sense in May, "We are growing faster than we could have dreamed of."

Neither Sestito or Lupica, however, is involved with the franchise, as their agreement pre-dates Sweet Frog's explosive growth. In fact, the Downtown store operates under Yofina LLC, as will the Barracks Road store. Sestito says he's okay with Cha opening a store in Hollymead, as it will be far enough away from his stores.

Meanwhile, Cha, who had wanted to get out of the frozen yogurt business, finds himself collecting four percent of sales at each of his growing number of stores.

According to Sestito, it's not unlike how Pinkberry frozen yogurt shops, which are more ubiquitous than McDonald's in LA, got started.

"It was a Korean couple in California who wanted to open a formal English teahouse," he says, "but they had trouble getting a liquor license, so they decided to sell the yogurt."

According to a 2007 Fortune Magazine story, a typical Pinkberry store in LA could attract over 1,500 customers a day and "easily" haul in $250,000 a month.

"It's crazy," says Sestito.

Oh, and here's another little detail. According to the Richmond Business Sense story, Cha, who is a devout Christian, says the 'Frog' part of the name is an acronym for "Fully Rely on God."

Amen. And pass the Reese's Pieces and the cookie dough.

Read more on: frozen yogurtSweet Frog


Gag. I really liked Sweet Frogs until I read that "frog" is a secret bible-thumper acronym.

Frozen yogurt sucked in the 80,s and still does.

I also found the bible thumper thing to be a real turn-off, though the majority of the flavors are a turn-off in and of themselves.

Dawg and Agreed are threatened because the owner has a faith (which he doesn't push down anyone's throat at his store); they represent Charlottesville's tolerant left. How pathetic.

Couldn't FROG be FRozen + yOGurt?

I've tried to like frozen yogurt, really I have, I even went into Sweet Frog at my boyfriend's suggestion, but fro yo will always have that slight sourness that gives it away. It can't pass for ice cream or custard. But, I wish the owners of Sweet Frog all the best, and no doubt it's a fun idea. Can go around and fill your cup up with whatever dozens of flavor combinations you want, with dozens of toppings. If only it were ice cream or custard though................ ;D

there's a difference between threatened & disgusted. what's their froyo made out of, anyway? is it nasty fake stuff?

Arch's is much better.

Dawg, Agreed & Tom Cross: The 'Frog' acronym info is from an interview with Derek Cha, the Short Pump store owners. The Charlottesville crew had nothing to do with that. They kept the name because of they thought kids would like it. Read more carefully and then temper your comments with a bit thought...

I thought is was some new yogurt sensation from France.


"there's a difference between threatened & disgusted"

You're right, "disgusted" is MUCH more tolerant that "threatened".


@Tom, I'm not threatened, just sick to death of christian proselytizing. I think christian doctrine, regardless of brand, is incoherent and nonsensical. Faith is poor justification for a lack of logic. I find it completely offensive that so many christians are trying to inject their theology into every arena, whether commercial or public policy. Believe what you want to believe, but leave me out of it.

The Sweet Frog store on the Mall has (or had, last time I was in there) a sign up behind the counter explaining the "Fully Rely on God" thing. So maybe it originated with the Short Pump owners, but it's there in this store too. I kind of like the yogurt, but if I have a choice between frozen yogurt with Christian proselytizing signs on the wall and gelato with no Christian proselytizing signs on the wall, I choose the gelato. Similarly, there's no way I'm buying anything from Chaps, owned by a huge Tea Party backer. It's just a matter of whom I want to give my $$ to.

Dave, do you think committed Christians who prefer to give their money to businesses that have a Christian basis are "threatened" by non-proselytizing businesses?

A store with a hidden Christian acronym is immediate grounds for never patronizing said store, but I'm sure another shop with a bit of Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, or Ba'hai culture and religiosity is quaint and awesome, right? Pathetic.

If you don't want to patronize a shop because you don't like the owner, the goods or services it provides or its possible religious message, that's fine. But don't say "I loved it, then I found out it was Christian and I was disgusted" because that's exactly the same as saying "I loved that deli, then I found out the owner was a Jew and noticed a mezuzah on the doorframe. Why can't those Jews keep their religion to themselves?" Say the former and you are to be lauded, say the latter and you're a bigot. Am I right?

Folks, it's yogurt. Chill out for once in your lives.

On the money d-town brown. I personally could not care less what a business owner's religious philosophy is provided that the goods and services provided are quality. Christian, Muslim, athiest, Jewish, whatever! I welcome all comers if you're selling me something quality and at a good price.

Who gives a g-damn if they are Christian, that froyo is the bomb.

Why don't you open an atheist yogurt shop and see how it takes off!

No evangelical bible-thumpers, please. I'll take my dessert money elsewhere.

No Jews/Muslims/Hindus, please. I'll take my dessert money elsewhere.

@Roffle, last I checked, Jews and Hindus weren't evangelizing. I don't know if Muslims spend a lot of time trying to get people to convert to Islam. Your response to Henry is not at all on point. The implicit message of evangelicals is, "You are wrong, we are right." It's offensive.

People make the mistake of thinking that religious faith is benign. It is not. There are a lot of radicals out there of all stripes who want to impose their faith on this country via public policy. I avoid patronizing businesses whose owners (e.g., tea partiers, evangelical christians) have a radical agenda that I think would be harmful to this country. I don't want to contribute to their profit and, by extension, their possible financial contribution to candidates like Bachmann, Perry, or Ken Boyd. The personal is political.

Good to know about the overt christian aspect of Sweet Frogs - and I'll take my money and my business elsewhere. I like to think for myself, thank you.

You people are crazy. So they're Christian and have a small sign up, does that make them Jerry Falwell? Good lord, the self-righteous hypocrites in this town (or maybe just the ones who post here) are as disgusting as those they constantly deride. Get a grip. As I said before, it's yogurt; it's not like they're handing out mini-bibles or crosses along with the receipt when you pay!

No wonder GOD keeps throwing the smack down on your heathen utopia.

"The implicit message of evangelicals is, "You are wrong, we are right." It's offensive."

Isn't the message of pretty much EVERY religion is that it has the fullness of the truth? Does that not at least imply that everybody else is at least partially wrong?

And besides, wouldn't being an atheist imply that you think everyone who believes in any God is also wrong? I really can't see your point at all. Ah that's right, because it's rooted in just a different kind of bigotry, once which is shined up nice and pretty under the guise of just wanting to be "left alone." White people in Alabama just wanted to be "left alone" and not have to mix with blacks during segregation. Germans in the 1930s just wanted to be "left alone" and not have the Jews who were stockpiling wealth and creating all their problems living in their country. It's all the same man.

I'm not saying you don't have the right to patronize whatever store you wish but let's not pretend you're not lashing out at this store in particular due to anything other than bigotry.

Seriously? Why must every conversation in this towns papers and message boards turn to sOme anti- tea party , GOP, Christian bashing session. Get a grip, crazyies! It's yogurt. If you don't like it, don't go there. I've been there at least 20 times and have not seen the "church" you are all referring to.

These comments made me remember exactly why I don't read this garbage news paper!

God Bless You!

(wonder how long till this is removed from the website?!)

Way to Godwin the comments, Roffle.

Of course each religion thinks they are the only correct one. Fortunately most of them aren't overtly trying to convert others like Christians do.

Personally, I like Sweet Frog and will continue to patronize their store. I may not agree with them religiously but it doesn't change the fact that their product is quite good.

It doesn't seem to me that the owners of Sweet Frog are trying to push their customers into any faith or agenda, as nearly all of the commenters here had no idea what their "FROG" stood for prior to reading this article. A "hidden" meaning in a store name and perhaps a small sign seem far from pushy or proselytizing. We know nothing of their doctrine or faith practice, whether they're "radical" or "Bible-thumpers" or not.

And just because someone has faith in God is no indication that they're channeling their money into ring wing organizations, the GOP, or the Tea Party. I know many Christians who are far more likely to financially back a "liberal" cause over a conservative one.

Really, do you find out the political leaning and faith of every business owner in town before deciding to frequent their establishment? It's yogurt, folks. Anyone want to meet for dessert? ;)

Wow. Some of you people need to get over yourselves. I sure as heck wouldn't buy anything you sell wherever you sell it.

Forget what FROG stands for. These guys have a nice little business and have done well for themselves. I say more power to them. Congrats.

If any christian shows any "sign" of being a christian. The libtards feel that the christian is trying to push their faith onto them. When it is exactly the opposite. Remember people, these libtards are the same people that want to give equal rights to murderers, rapists and felons. oh yeah, and trees

Does anyone remember Victory Shoe Store, I do, still have pair of shoes I paid $10 for, loved the ladies that ran the place, it was next to Bibbs Seafood, another cool place that has disapeared.
I like Sweet Frogs and Im a Buddhist

I suppose all you folks that don't approve of Christian companies boycott Chick-Filet too? If so, I don't think they are hurting any from your lack of patronage and neither will Sweet Frogs.

I went to a Sweet Frog over in Winchester Commons in Richmond. I found out about the acronym by looking at the sign near the cash register. No, they aren't preventing atheists from shopping there but it does feel a little less friendly with that sign there.

I'm not saying Sweet FROG has an agenda but I won't be back until I know that sign is gone. It's irrelevant to yogurt purchases which is why it's a really curious sign in the first place. Maybe they just didn't realize how diverse people in this area really are.

Actually, I do avoid Chik-Fil-A (and most fast food, for that matter), but they are not so in-your-face about it. They are closed on Sundays, which is inconvenient.

@CJ, it's not that "any sign" of being a christian is offensive. Wear all the jewelry you want, tattoo your body, whatever. It's things like the In-n-Out Burger putting Bible verses on its disposable cups, or a business playing gospel music that customers have to listen to when they shop that is tantamount to proselytizing. I think the Sweet Frogs hidden christian acronym is not quite as bad, but to me--someone who has had enough of the christian agenda--it's annoying and disappointing, and it does make me think twice about going there.

@ Dawg

Why is it annoying? Or disappointing? How does that affect the quality of the product?

They don't require you to agree with their beliefs before you're allowed in the store.

They don't discriminate against those who share different beliefs.

Having a Christian acronym in their title has nothing to do with how the yogurt tastes, the quality of the product, the service you get, the ambiance and cleanliness of the establishment, or the prices you pay.

So if somebody theoretically likes everything about the store, then what the heck does it matter whether they snuck some "Christian acronym!!!!" into their title? It affects nothing. They're not pushing anything on you. There is no "agenda" going on as you portray it. They chose that name because it means something to *them.* It's about *them.* Not you. For all you know, they felt that it would somehow help bless their store or something to include something Christian in the title, since that's their belief system. It has nothing to do with *you,* and what *you* choose to believe. It's exactly the same thing as a Christian choosing to wear a cross necklace. It means something to *them.* They're not choosing their jewelry with *you* in mind.

I'm not even a Christian, and I don't even like frozen yogurt. Illogical stupidity just irks me to no end.

Oh and hey Dawg, good job pushing the conservative meme that you have to be a Republican in order to be a good Christian. That's real helpful.

@Roffle, it is unfortunate, but the right-wingers/evangelicals have ruined the christian "brand" for the rest of them. I have met many christian pacifists--most of whom are Catholic or other mainline Protestant types--but they seem to be outnumbered these days.

@Boo, you are right--the religion has nothing to do with the quality of the product, which is why religious displays should stay where they properly belong--at home and at houses of worship.

I guess I'm just gonna have to try this myself before making judgments.

"Belief is the death of intelligence" - R.A.W. (RIP)

If Elitist means 'not the dumbest motherf****er in the room, then yeah, I'm an elitist.

i can't believe you people have this much time to dedicate to such a ridiculous discussion. get out and do something meaningful with your lives, yogurt or no yogurt. idiots.

They have some pretty tasty treats in there. They are making money and being successful. They are happy. They may also be happy because they are Christians, and believing in Jesus makes them happy. I feel sorry for those of you who are getting so upset, and accusing them of some sort of wrong doing. Also, this is the United States of America, so we should be happy they are able to open their own business, and have the freedom to express their beliefs. Listen to the chick-fil-a music playing out of their ceiling speakers. Pure Christian rock. Study up a little about America and freedom before you bash God and his believers that serve you a dessert.

I just hope they get some crushed graham crackers to go with some of the fresh fruit :)

Amen to the graham crackers. I was thinking the same thing last time I was in there. It would be great with the Tart and some whip cream. Key lime pie in a bowl, heavenly!

the georgia peach is yummy!

Frozen yogurt is a fad. I'll stick with my Baskin Robbins!

@ Ozzie

So, I wonder how long something has to be around before it's no longer considered a "fad"? I remember froyo eateries in SoCal in the early 90s. It's now 2011. That's some fad!

It is so painful to read so much hate towards anything that has to do with God. Please reflect on the nonsense that you keep on repeating. I would love to know what negative message or harmful message can you get from anything that has to do with God? There is none!!! All God teaches is love. Where as on the other hand, I can hear a lot of negative messages in Lady Gaga's music or on almost any well known popular song, T.V. shows, Movies, etc., etc. I bet you do not complain about that. Have you realized that the real minority in this country that is really hurting from hate and bigotry is us, the God loving people. The religion of Immorality is being shoved down our throats. We are the ones who can not even say Merry Christmas. We love God and hate no one. You should not be afraid of us, but of yourself. You are hurting yourself with so much hatred.

And I would like to agree with Sweet Frog. Fully Rely On God. This is the sure way to happiness.

4God, cry me a river. No one is persecuting the christians; they are the ones shoving their religion down everyone's throat. You are in no way a minority. Give me a break.

God teaches whatever the believers want him to teach. You think he is all lovey-dovey, but plenty of other people think he's angry and retributive. It's all nonsense. No one is telling you not to say Merry Christmas--we are just asking you to remember that not everyone buys the jesus story or celebrates christmas. It's a matter of not making assumptions.

Dawg, you sound like a mean, spiteful, bitter person with some kind of axe to grind, but God loves you anyway regardless of what you may think about Him.

See, this the problem. Dawg doesn't believe in God. That is their right. Yet you force your beliefs on them with a "God loves you." If God loves Dawg, God doesn't need you to tell him, God will show him. The lack of respect of other's beliefs seems to go both ways. And why does God have to be a "him" anyway? Because men wrote everything down throughout history? (Insert eyeroll here.)

If you are secure in your beliefs, and you post a sign about it as this storeowner has, why should you care about someone else deciding not to buy in your store because of it; that is the consequences of the choice you made. Be respectful and tolerant of all religions or lack thereof - it isn't worth starting a war over is it? Oh wait, how many wars throughout history were waged to conquer the "heathens" and bring them into the light? How many were killed because someone else decided their religion was the only true religion? Respect and tolerance - religion is a personal choice. I personally don't care about the religious signs in a store unless someone forces me to listen to them go on about it. I can always turn my head.

Possibly, I am not trying to "force" God's love or frozen yogurt on anyone. Anyone can believe whatever they want, and I have no problem with that at all. My problem comes when those opposed to a belief think their voice is the only one worthy of being heard.

@Just Saying, you think I am mean because I am sick to death of christians whining about how much they are persecuted? You sure have a low bar for "mean." If I have an axe to grind, it's with christians who are so obtuse as to believe that they couldn't possibly offend anyone by their constant proselytizing (which includes cute little signs and christian music on PA systems) and "god loves you" shibboleths. It's about time people started pushing back against this stuff--there was a time when people did not discuss their religion or wear it on their sleeve, and it made for a much more civil society, precisely because people believe what they will, and they are offended by the implicit message that their believe system is wrong (which is the implicit message of any proselytizing). So as far as I'm concerned, if you think it's ok to tell me god loves me or that I need to believe in jesus to be happy, I think it's ok to tell you that you are full of sh*t.

I don't care if you believe that spirits live in bushes (makes more sense than the judeo-christian god, to my mind). But quit assuming that everyone accepts christianity as some sort of benign feel-good faith that makes sense. To outsiders, it is a pastiche of beliefs that combines some myths that combines the Greek mystery religious with some myths that originated in Egypt thousands of years before christ allegedly walked the earth. There is nothing christianity says that hasn't been said before.

Damn. I am not sure who is worse. A holier than thou athiest, a former smoker or a whiney lib. Get over your beta self.

When people hate so much there is nothing you can say except pray! This is the last time I write on this wall. I will just pray. I am not trying to force my belief on anyone. Jesus walked bringing the message in peace. He did not force HIS message on anyone. I will always do the same because that is what he wants us to do. Nothing will stop me from doing that because of fear. And yes, in history Christians have been persecuted and little by little they are being persecuted again.

Christianity is harmless. It is completely the opposite of being harmful. See, If we all were Christians we would not even need laws because there would be no killings, or stilling, or abusing the system, etc. We would all be good, because his message is good. We would def. have a better place. I have not heard from you what is bad about Christianity. All I hear is that we try to impose our beliefs which is not true. Posting a sign on your door is a right, not an imposition. Nobody makes you go in there, and no one cares if you do not go back. See, when you are doing the right thing, you are not afraid. We belief in divine providence. We do not hide our beliefs. I did not hear from you either what negative message it is. My recommendation is.... don't hate so much. We don't hate anyone. We just love God and we are proud to show it! And by showing it we bring a little bit of a positive message into this world (again, you never said what negative message it is Fully Rely On God). THERE IS NONE. Does the american currency offend you too? "One nation under God"

And one more question? Does it offend you that anyone loves their children, husband, mother, etc. And that they wear it on their shirt. Why should I keep it a secret that I love God not to offend anyone. By the way loving God makes us love you too. And for those who love God this is my favorite quote:

"Evil prevails when the righteous are silent" And it is so true!!!

I am sorry, I said I was not going to write anymore but I said something wrong:
American currency: In God we trust
Pledge of allegiance: One nation under God

God bless you all

4God: most of what you are saying is prefaced as your belief. As far as I am concerned, there is absolutely nothing wrong with stating your beliefs. But your comment “if we were all Christians” really scares me. Do you realize how many have thought this about their religion over the ages? God is in all religions. Christians started wars, too. Remember the crusades? No religion can avoid it’s history. We shouldn’t cast stones, remember?

Too much has been made over this sign. You are right. It is the right of the store owner to display it. It is the right of others to choose to not go there if it bothers them.

But more than that, it is time that we respect the right for all religions (or no religion) to PEACEFULLY coexist. Coming to my door telling me what is wrong with mine doesn’t foster that. That’s why I also have a nice, polite little SIGN next to my front door that says:

“We respect the right of all religions to peacefully coexist. Please respect our right not to discuss ours.”

Would you believe they still ring the bell anyway? That’s force. That’s why some probably cop an attitude that might just be a tad bit too forceful in it’s own right.

I just wish they didn't have styrofoam containers. Wonder if they'd let you bring your own bowl?