2009-05-08 / Business

Shop gives customers just what they want

By Michelle Knight knight@theacorn.com

WENDY PIERRO/Acorn Newspapers YUM!—Camarillo residents Linda and Matt Bays are owners of Swirl Frozen Yogurt Bar. Swirl opened in December and is a do-it-yourself yogurt shop. WENDY PIERRO/Acorn Newspapers YUM!—Camarillo residents Linda and Matt Bays are owners of Swirl Frozen Yogurt Bar. Swirl opened in December and is a do-it-yourself yogurt shop. Winter may have seemed like the worst time for Linda and Matt Bays to open a frozen yogurt shop. But fate smiled on the Camarillo couple when they opened Swirl Frozen Yogurt Bar on an unseasonably warm day last December.

"We were exceeding our expectations every day," Matt said.

The Mission Oaks couple decided two years ago to open a selfservice frozen yogurt shop in Village at the Park. They planned that one of them would leave their full-time job when the time came to open. The decision as to whether it would be Linda or Matt was made for them when, a week before the store's landlord handed over the keys, the underground pipe installation company Matt worked for folded, and he lost his job as an estimator and project manager.

While in college, Matt frequented frozen yogurt shops that sold by the weight and seemed to be thriving. He told Linda about the self-serve concept, but she remained skeptical until he took her to one of his old college haunts in San Luis Obispo. She was impressed by the brisk business despite the overcast weather that day.

"There's nothing like it in Camarillo," Matt told her.

With Linda convinced, the couple had to figure out their pricing strategy. Matt's background in business helped them determine that 39 cents an ounce for frozen yogurt and toppings would cover overhead and give them a profit.

Swirl customers can choose from six flavors of Dreyers frozen yogurt and 37 candy, cereal and fresh fruit toppings. Always on tap are vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and Tartisan—a tart, cheesecake-like flavor. The two other yogurt flavors change twice a week.

Business may have slacked off some since the shop first opened, but the Bayses have a steady stream of regulars. An elementary school is a block away, and some 8,000 Village at the Park residents live within walking distance. The couple also expects business to pick up dramatically when the nearby sports park opens in the fall, drawing thousands of players and their families for practices and games.

"We'll be 100 yards away from 2,500 kids playing soccer," Matt said.

On a recent afternoon, Christine Jesse came in with her three children and a nephew, all under 5 years old. Jesse bought each child the flavor and toppings of their choice and then a bowl for herself. All five bowls came to $8.58.

"You can't beat that," Jesse said.

Doug Orear, who sat at a table outside Swirl eating vanilla frozen yogurt, said he comes here three times a week with his family.

"It's a really good product," Orear said.

Most of the time Matt mans the store, and the Bayses employ two part-time workers. Swirl has become a community gathering place, and the couple wants to encourage that. Matt said he's at the shop every day so he can greet and get to know his customers. Regulars come in to exchange the latest information about the neighborhood and post announcements about lost pets, babysitting jobs and guitar lessons on the community board that hangs on the wall near the entrance.

"We seem to be part of the community," Matt said.

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