Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Chop Talk: Interview with TangySweet's Aaron Gordon

Whoever said you can't go home again obviously wasn't talking about TangySweet owner Aaron Gordon. After leaving his hometown of Washington DC for the sunny promise of the west coast, Aaron saw a ticket home in an emerging west coast trend, one that he's brought back to our nation's capitol: high-end frozen yogurt.

At first glance, Aaron doesn't look like the kind of guy who's a pioneer in what promises to be the next big thing in food for DC residents. With a lack of background in the restaurant industry aside from tending bar and waiting tables, this former PR professional looked like a regular customer when I met with him yesterday; orange t-shirt and jeans with a matching five o'clock shadow, customers passed him not having the slightest clue that it's his product they're lined up out the door to sample.

It's his product that he's most passionate about. Aaron "fell in love" with the light, "healthy treat" while living out in Los Angeles over the past decade, and sees the latest craze for frozen yogurt as anything but a trend that will suddenly disappear.

Aaron had some initial reservations about bringing the concept to DC, a city that, when he left, was a little too "steak and potatoes" for frozen yogurt. But after seeing what he calls a shift towards more "fun, adventurous food" over the past five years, Aaron knew it was time to make his move.

Landing himself a spot in the "West P" neighborhood (the area of P St. NW just west of Dupont Circle) that he sees as up and coming, Aaron seems shocked by the response he's gotten. With around 1,500 guests on his opening "Free Friday", and a steady stream of over 700 takers a day, he's pretty excited about the now-common line out the door.

But with the lines building up, it's only a matter of time before competition builds (in fact, as I’m writing this, it’s been announced that Sweetgreen, the Georgetown based yogurt shop is opening another restaurant in Dupont Circle), and Aaron says he's ready. He believes that "friendly, great service" and his "hometown roots" will give him an edge over the out of town mega-chains. But what Aaron really believes will set him apart from the competition is his product.

From "the best smoothies in town" to the freshest fruit he can find, Aaron takes a great deal of pride in his product, and says that he'd rather risk turning a profit if it means he can get the best ingredients possible.

Even with his success thus far, Aaron isn't about to slow down, saying that it's "fun to change things up." Expect to see new flavors such as mango make appearances about once a month, and new toppings rotate through.

There's also been some thought put into expanding into other areas of the city. Aaron says that he's gotten five serious franchise offers, and that we could possibly see two more stores, one probably on Capitol Hill and the other most likely in Penn Quarter, by next Spring.

Until then however, he's focused squarely on his product, and keeping his customers happy. "Right now I'm working on how to make this better," Aaron says with a smile, a thought that makes us all glad that Aaron Gordon has made his way back home.

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