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Yotopia boasts fresh, Iowa-made ingredients

Yotopia owner Veronica Tessler at the toppings counter at her North Liberty frozen yogurt shop.

NORTH LIBERTY– Just call Veronica Tessler the yogurt queen.
She was the first to bring frozen yogurt to the Iowa City area in 2011;the first to use 100 percent yogurt with live and active cultures; and the first to source her ingredients locally.
Now the queen is expanding her empire to North Liberty.
Yotopia in North Liberty opened its doors along with Molly’s Cupcakes this past March. Tessler had been contemplating moving to a smaller town for months, and with the ever-expanding market in North Liberty, she knew she had found her business’s new home.
“North Liberty was a clear candidate,” Tessler said. “I knew I wanted to be in a place that was a littler town with a lot of young families.”
However, finding a perfect spot to set up shop wasn’t an easy process. Tessler estimates she spent around 18 months just looking for a place to build her North Liberty location, along with Molly’s Cupcakes owner, Jamie Smith. The pair scouted out several spots, but none of them felt quite right.
In late 2013, Tessler learned of the Grand Rail development and knew she had found a clear winner. She contacted the developers and four months after signing the lease, Yotopia, located at 620 Pacha Pkwy., suite 4, served its first customers.
Tessler and Smith had previously worked together during events in the Iowa City area. As both business owners looked toward expansion, they realized their products– cake and ice cream– were incredibly complimentary.
“Veronica and I compared sales awhile ago and we realized that she was busy when I wasn’t and vice versa,” Smith said. “So at any given time there’s always someone in the store.”
Though the new location strikes many similarities with its Iowa City sister, including a bright and whimsical atmosphere, its creation went through an entirely different process. With the North Liberty location, Tessler had a little extra help in building the shop.
“The first store was built on a shoestring budget. It was just myself and friends. We did all the general construction,” Tessler said. “This time we were lucky that the developers also did construction. It definitely made things easier.”
But one thing Tessler didn’t change with the new location was the entrepreneur’s commitment to using local vendors. All of Yotopia’s digital marketing is sourced from a local design firm, Sculpt Social Media.
“We have so many resources at our fingertips in Iowa,” Tessler said. “I’m a big proponent on doing as much locally as possible and supporting young entrepreneurs, like me, who took a risk to grow their own business.”
But it’s not just the shop’s marketing that has a local connection. Even the ingredients have an Iowa flavor to them. The shop only uses real yogurt containing live and active cultures– never from powder or with high-fructose corn syrup. And all dairy products are delivered once a week from a family-run farm in Hawkeye, which Tessler often visits.
“They’re a really great Iowa family, running a great business,” Tessler said. “I just like to come visit to check on the cows and the family.”
Tessler herself is responsible for Yotopia’s fruit deliveries. Every morning, she drives from Iowa
City to North Liberty in order to provide customers with freshest ingredients.
So how does Tessler whittle her choices down to
just a dozen or so flavors? When the original location opened, the shop
held a large and in-depth taste test, where customers helped decide which flavors they enjoyed best. Tessler
also continues to receive input from her employees and, of course, relies on her own personal preferences.
Almost all of the shop’s frozen yogurt selections are gluten-free. Yotopia also boasts a healthy selection of dairy-free options that vary throughout the year. Currently on tap is a mango sorbet and a strawberry-lemonade sorbet.
“I like having a variety of sweet or cakey flavors versus more tart and fruity tastes,” Tessler said. “We also rotate seasonally.”
But does Tessler play favorites with her flavors?
“I really love strawberry-lemonade sorbet with fresh fruit or mochi rice cake bites, ” Tessler said. “I do something different every time. I still eat yogurt every day; I’m definitely not sick of it yet.”
Yotopia in North Liberty is open from 11 a.m.
until 10 p.m.
seven days
a week.