U-Top It, a frozen yogurt eatery in Covington, sells its yogurt like Washington gas stations sell gas. The customer does it all themselves.
The idea came about after Jennifer Ketels, who founded U-Top It in 2008, spent 18 months researching other businesses which follow a self-serve style formula to come up with her own concept which would both sell frozen yogurt and be tailored for children.
“I methodically went through…and thought about what would work well with kids,” she said.
Ketels, who lives in California, opened the Covington location in March with Karen Chin Reasoner and Kurt Reasoner, who live in Issaquah. Ketels, who was roommates with Chin Reasoner and competed on the swim team with her, says that she never suspected that a business partnership would come of the friendship.
“We were very close long before anyone of us saw doing this,” Ketels said. “She was an engineer by training and I was into marketing. We both went and did our own things. It was totally never thought of 20 years ago. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better partner to help take U-Top It to the next level.”
Ketels stated in a phone interview it was Chin Reasoner’s idea to open up locations in Washington. Given specific demographic parameters to work with, she spent a year searching before they settled on Covington.
“It’s a great town,” Ketels said.
Lucy Irey, 18, who works at the Covington location, believes that there is a strong appeal for places like U-Top It, where “people can do it all themselves,” which eliminates the risk of wrong orders and allows the customer to select their yogurt at their own pace.
“It’s very kid friendly,” she said.
For those who are lactose intolerant or diabetic, there are dairy-free sorbets and no-sugar added yogurts available.
“Our commitment is to provide a variety of premium and all-natural choices for you to craft the perfect masterpiece,” said Chin-Reasoner.
The toppings range from cereal like Reese Puffs to fruits like peaches and bananas. The most unusual choices, according to Irey, can also be the most popular.
“People flip out when they see the Cap’n Crunch,” she said.
The process is formed like an assembly line. First, a bowl size is selected. Then, the choices of yogurt are found to the left, much like Slurpee machines. Flavors include creamy tart, boysenberry, cake batter, coffee, toffee and vanilla. Beyond the machines is a countertop lined up with dozens of possible toppings followed by syrups. Much like a Slurpee, quantity is up to the customer — as long as it fits into the bowl.
Having a school located next to the shopping area has provided them with a steady stream of business after school hours.
“We get rushed quite often,” Irey said.
On frozen yogurt, Irey stated it is “becoming quite a trend in other states.”
“I’ve always been a huge fan since I was a little kid,” Ketels stated when asked why she started a frozen yogurt business. “We’re (Chin Reasoner) pretty healthy conscious people and it’s a nice thing to break into a community, and it’s healthy instead of heavier ice cream.”
Ketels stated she is currently in the process of obtaining leases for new locations in Washington. She is hoping to open up five new locations and said they would all be within an hour’s drive of Covington.
U-Top It Business Information
- U-Top It is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and until 10 a.m. on Friday and Saturday
- U-Top It’s Facebook page can be found at www.facebook.com/pages/U-Top-It-Washington/173948729315340