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You may not have known Goshen needed a frozen yogurt shop, but Kelly Huffman thought it did.
And now she has a hit on her hands.
She hoped that in the first 90 days of business, 7,000 people would enter a cell phone number to be part of a customer loyalty program.
She got 12,000 numbers.
Her shop in Linway Plaza, near Hacienda and Linway Cinema, is seeing 1,000 to 1,500 customers some days.
The shop that opened May 20 has the feel of a coffee shop, but Huffman said she knew Goshen didn't need another coffee shop. Or a premium ice cream shop. “We love The Chief. The Chief is a 50-year tradition in this town. It is a premium ice cream,” she said.
She was fascinated by tea because of her son Jarrod's influence after teaching in India on a Fulbright Fellowship. On a November visit to her son, Quinton, in Mississippi, she visited a frozen yogurt shop called Smacker's and “fell in love with it.”
That started a search for the best frozen yogurt she could find, the best concept and design she could find.
While she visited around 50 shops across the United States, she looked for a location in Goshen. She said demographic research showed her that hundreds of thousands of people visit Linway Plaza annually for the movie theater or Hacienda.
“I'm not a foodie. I'm a marketing person,” Huffman said.
She got a Small Business Administration loan and rented a space in Linway. She signed on with Honey Hill Farms, a family dairy from Arkansas whose owner is passionate about his product, she said. Bud Gunter's business flavors the low-fat frozen yogurt with solids, such as red velvet cake or mango, rather than extracts. He ships the yogurt or sorbet to Honey's in plastic containers the staff can thaw, empty and recycle.
Huffman's friend, Dee Albrecht, did the interior design for the shop and Nuway Construction, which Kelly owns with her husband, did the work. They want it to feel like a lounge that people can hang out in, using the free wi-fi and drinking tea or eating dessert.
Frozen yogurt, made with skim milk and seen as a healthy dessert, is coming back. The indulgent ice cream shops such as Ritter's and Coldstone aren't as popular as they once were, Huffman said. Frozen yogurt is hot, and not just in Goshen.
How does self-serve frozen yogurt work at Honey's?
You can put a cookie from Dutch Maid Bakery in the bottom of the cup from the “bottoms bar.” She hopes to use more products from local businesses and use “hot bottoms” such as cobbler this winter.
Eighteen flavors of yogurt or sorbet are on tap, so to speak. Sea salt caramel pretzel is the signature flavor and has a lovely mix of sweet and salt within the yogurt. There's usually one non-dairy sorbet available and two no-sugar options. Most of the flavors are gluten-free.
The fruit flavors are bright and clean. I avoid flavors like cake batter, but children love them and children drive business at Honey's.
Seventy toppings are available. There are candy bars and cookies, cereals and nuts, fruits and some funky things like juice-filled boba bubble balls that look like tapioca and mochi marshmallows made from rice flour. Sprinkles in the colors of the local high schools and Goshen College are available as well.
You make the bowl of yogurt you want and pay 45 cents an ounce. The average cup comes to the register half-full, holding about eight ounces and costing $3.50. If you do the loyalty program you get a free bowl after spending $27.
My favorite combinations are the fruit sorbets with more fruit, soba balls and nuts or the salted caramel pretzel with more pretzels, nuts, caramel and, as recommended by employee Madi Matthes, crushed Reese's cups. I'm also a big fan of those mochi.
My only complaints are how loud the store can be, but Huffman said she's working to mitigate that, and the behavior of customers. I've seen them scoop cereal out of dispenser chutes with their fingers and stand in front of a machine licking a sample cup. Huffman's staff keeps the place incredibly clean, but customers need to be mindful of others.
Huffman has given away plenty of yogurt this summer to get people into the shop and trying her new thing. She's aware that winter is coming, but has been surprised at how fast business has grown.
It's one of the few non-bars open late in Goshen and does more business between 11 p.m. and midnight than 11 a.m. to noon, according to Huffman and her manager, Audrey Oostland.
She opened this place with her family. She's giving 10 percent of the profits from a frozen yogurt shop in Indiana to a school in India where her son taught. She's offering Goshen something it didn't have. And in this case, it tastes good.
@Breakout heads 08:If You Go
What: Honey's Self Serve Frozen Yogurt
Where: 620 W. Lincoln Ave., Goshen, in Linway Plaza
Fare: Frozen yogurt and tea
Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Monday to Saturday, noon to midnight Sunday
Details: Self-serve and pay 45 cents an ounce, pints available, room available for meetings and birthday parties at no charge, tea available in liquid or as bulk leaves, no smoking, handicapped accessible, free wi-fi.
Marshall V. King is news and multimedia editor and food columnist for The Elkhart Truth/eTruth.com. You can reach him via email@example.com, 574-296-5805 or the Dining A La King Facebook page at www.facebook.com/diningalaking.