Frozen yogurt trend descends on Boulder

Kaely Moore | Boulder Weekly

Boulderites are queuing up for self-serve dessert at Ripple Pure Frozen Yogurt.

On any given night, this frozen yogurt sensation — named after a Grateful Dead song — is packed with hungry people looking for a creative and affordable treat.

Ripple isn’t the first of its kind, and it won’t be the last in Boulder. In a trend that seems to be sweeping in from the West Coast, self-serve frozen yogurt joints are gradually popping up around the city. Ripple’s colorful little establishment will soon be joined by Aspen Leaf Yogurt, at Table Mesa and Broadway, and Spooners on the Twenty Ninth Street Mall.

With 16 flavors and at least 70 different toppings — many of which, like the cheesecake bites and birthday cake truffles, are baked fresh in Ripple’s bakery — customers have a seemingly endless combination of sweets to choose from.

Ripple co-founders Jamie Gardner and David Humphrey say that they didn’t expect Ripple, which opened in January, to become such a fast-growing hit. The yogurt shop barely got a soft open before being swamped with eager customers.

“It’s weird to us that we’ve started something that has gotten so popular so fast,” Humphrey says. “Everybody is in a good spirit because it’s in such a fun environment.”

Gardner, an admitted frozen yogurt addict, has been interested in the self-serve model since the mid- 1980s after she first saw one in a convenience store attached to a gas station.

She and Humphrey started work on their frozen yogurt business more than a year ago, digging into research and flying out to L.A. to find out what places were working best. After seeing how successful the self-serve model was in California, the couple decided that it would be the best model for them as well.

Unlike much of their competition, Ripple’s owners opted out of the franchise idea, going instead for a single store location on 30th Street and Canyon Boulevard.

Gardner and Humphrey are moving toward generating energy for the store using wind power, and all of the products at Ripple — except for the yogurt cups — are compostable. One of the store’s primary goals, Humphrey says, is to be as carbon-neutral as possible.

“We wanted to make it a distinctly Boulder store,” Humphrey says.

And the store is looking at some distinctly serious competition.

Scott Capdevielle, managing partner at Aspen Leaf Boulder, says that Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory — which owns the Aspen Leaf franchise — plans to open five Aspen Leaf locations in Boulder County within the next two years.

Capdevielle expects the market for self-serve frozen yogurt places to get increasingly competitive, especially in places like Boulder, where all-natural, healthy products are more greatly emphasized.

“I’m a believer in bringing in professionals from the beginning so we ensure that we’re one of the guys that survives,” Capdevielle says.

Aspen Leaf, like Ripple, will get its frozen yogurt from Boulder Ice Cream, which prides itself on producing a completely all-natural product.

Ashley Patterson, a student at the University of Colorado at Boulder and frequent Ripple customer, says one reason she thinks frozen yogurt is gaining popularity in Boulder is because it offers a healthier dessert alternative.

“I do see Boulder as a really healthy place to live, so knowing that there’s something a little more healthy makes it more appealing, for sure,” Patterson says.

Patterson also says that she plans on trying out all of the new frozen yogurt places once they open up in town.

Humphrey and Gardner say they aren’t too worried about their competition. For the moment, they will continue trying to keep up with the demand of Ripple’s zealous crowds and preparing for their grand opening event at the beginning of next month, the proceeds of which will help benefit the Boulder Homeless Shelter.

“We can’t be overly concerned about the competition because there’s not much we can do about it,” Gardner says. “If anything, it just makes more people know about the product.”