Urban Swirl was ‘leap of faith’Published 12:00pm Friday, June 15, 2012
GRANGER, Ind. — Nine-year-old Patrick Mclaughlin’s face was covered in chocolate as he sat in the shade and scooped frozen yogurt — chocolate with chocolate syrup, Reeses Pieces, sprinkles and chocolate chips, to be exact — into his mouth.
“Pretty good,” he said.
He and his sister, 6-year-old Catherine, were visiting the self-serve frozen yogurt shop Urban Swirl for the first time.
Catherine, who chose watermelon yogurt with sprinkles and chocolate syrup, said she “loves” the different flavors.
“I think their favorite part is doing it themselves,” their mother, Martha Mclaughin, said.
‘A little leap of faith’
Urban Swirl, which opened in June 2011 at 7130 Heritage Square Suite 440 in the Heritage Square shopping center in Granger, Ind., has grown wildly popular among all ages of people seeking a sweet indulgence.
The kicker is that Urban Swirl’s 14 flavors are so decadent that even before toppings are heaped on, one doesn’t notice it’s actually kind of healthy. Non-dairy and no sugar-added options are also “on tap” as well.
“It’s deceiving,” co-owner Chrissy Harper said. “It’s actually really healthy for you.”
“Even our sorbets have live and active cultures,” co-owner Nancy Hildebrandt, of Granger, said.
Chrissy and her husband, Ben, Hildebrandt and a fourth silent partner are first-time business owners.
Harper, a California native and Osceola, Ind., resident, saw similar self-serve frozen yogurt models in the St. Louis area.
“My husband always wanted to open something, but he didn’t know what,” she said.
Hildebrandt became involved because Ben coached her daughter in wrestling at Penn High School in Mishawaka.
“I didn’t know if it would work here,” Harper said of the business concept. The Indiana weather and the economy were her main concerns.
“We were confident in our product, but we were unsure of the marketplace,” Harper said.
“It still was a little leap of faith,” Hildebrandt said.
Urban Swirl was busy the first summer and steady throughout its first winter, something the owners attribute to relentless social media marketing via email, Facebook and Twitter and their involvement in the community.
“All four of us are ingrained in the community,” Harper said.
“I do think the success is not just the quality of the product, but the social aspect,” Hildebrandt said.
“You have to spend time doing that — it doesn’t just come,” Harper said.
‘We knew we had to compete’
Urban Swirl does not look like a mom-and-pop joint — the uninformed might believe it is part of a chain of shops.
“If a national chain came to the area, we knew we had to compete,” Hildebrandt said.
The owners decided to add a double-siding topping bar loaded with fresh-cut fruit, candy, cookies, syrups and other treats; other shops have a single-sided bar, which tends to cause bottle-necking of customers in line.
Urban Swirl has 14 flavors “on tap” at any time, including its namesake “swirls,” which are two flavors mixed together — more commonly called a “twist” in the ice cream world.
They have more than 120 flavors available to them, but Urban Swirl’s owners carefully select its flavors each week. For example, they recently tried watermelon, and it was a hit.
“It’s a great summer flavor,” Harper said. “A lot of it’s kind of trial and error.”
Cake batter is the most popular among customers, with Very Berry Sorbet, chocolate, vanilla and cookies and cream close behind.
Innovation and consistency have been priorities for the Urban Swirl staff.
For example, they switch up the toppings and add fun options, like Popping Boba balls — little brightly colored balls filled with juice.
“The kids just get a kick out of that,” Harper said. “They’re a really good conversation piece.
“We challenge our employees to come up with new ideas,” she said. “We got to not get complacent.”
Additional Urban Swirl locations are planned soon for Goshen, Ind., West Lafayette, Ind., and St. Petersburg, Fla.
Urban Swirl is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week. Visit urbanswirlfrozenyogurt.com, “like” it on Facebook or follow it on Twitter @urbanswirl.