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Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Three alumni join Board of Trustees
By Hannah Marr, News Editor • June 21, 2024

When a rocket scientist sells his frozen yogurt shop, a buck can buy you a business

Steve Davis sold his frozen yogurt venture for $1 in an attempt to pass on his business to the most qualified and spirited candidate.

A rocket scientist sold his frozen yogurt venture for $1, but the trade wasn’t the world’s worst business deal.

It was an attempt by Steve Davis – the director of advanced projects at the private space transportation company SpaceX and owner of the shop – to pass on his zany business to the most qualified, spirited candidate.

The wacky spot has garnered attention since it opened in 2008 for its trivia challenge discounts, frozen yogurts made in-house and flavors dreamt up by fans. Mr. Yogato abides by 10 “rules” that include dishing out 5 percent discounts for life for customers who suggest a topping that is adopted and awarding 10 percent off to those who sing along to the song “Mr. Roboto” by ’80s rock band Styx.

To find the perfect owner to carry on this truly unique shop’s legacy, Davis announced he would sell his business for just $1 to the next “Charlie Bucket” who he could trust to carry on asking customers trivia questions and stamping their foreheads for discounts while serving up interesting flavor combinations.

Davis said he slimmed down the list from the approximately 250 people who showed interest by selecting “fun” inquiry responses and inviting about 25 candidates to an open house at the store so he could meet and vet them.

“People have to realize how much work it is, because obviously it is a really fun store, but it is a lot of work to run a store,” Davis said.

There was one clear standout to Davis that deserved the role – Justin Featherstone, who is now the owner and operator of the shop. Featherstone said he applied on a whim to add another property on top of his other store, called Berrycup, in Rockville, Md.

“I looked at it and was like, ‘this can’t be real,'” Featherstone said.

Featherstone has what Davis called “the fun factor,” with new directions and yummy treats in mind to keep Mr. Yogato churning for years to come.

Mr. Yogato rotates through a menu of flavors crafted in-store with eccentric names like yango maasango, for mango, and blue bonjour ganesh, for blueberry. Featherstone said taking over the shop will help him improve his craft, as his other business purchases yogurt instead of blending it in the store.

“To come in and to learn how they actually make the yogurt is amazing,” he said. “When you make it, the quality is so much better, because you can control a lot more aspects of the taste.”

Davis said he first opened Mr. Yogato to fill the void created by a lack of fro-yo options in the District. After a decade of rising to become a neighborhood fixture, Davis said the secret to curating his shop has been soliciting customer feedback.

“Interaction with customers and getting infinite feedback is so useful,” Davis said. “Almost everything here was not thought of by the owner. Every flavor, almost every rule has been thought of by someone else.”

Now, he hopes Featherstone will use his previous experience and out-of-the-box ideas to carry on what he began with Mr. Yogato about a decade ago.

Featherstone said he wants to continue the tradition of the store while adding new elements like bubble tea, locally-made toppings like brownies and offering full-size cheesecakes in mini sizes made by his brother.

In the next several months, Featherstone also hopes to add snow cream – a soft, creamy form of shaved ice and a family special – to the menu, he said.

The new owner said he has high expectations to live up to, but he welcomes the community watching him.

“I’m not trying to change everything that Steve’s done. I want to just build upon what he’s already created,” he said.

Although Featherstone wants to improve Mr. Yogato, he said the value of the business – its strong culture of community and support from fans –is something that aligns with his values and that he plans to keep intact as he takes over.

“When you think of frozen yogurt or ice cream, you think of going out with your family and having a good time,” he said. “I’m really close with my family, so I decided to get into the business.”

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