Written by Abigail Walker | Photographed by Paul Wolf
When Anthony Ritter moved his Glo Design Studio showroom “up the hill” of Woodland Hills Shopping Center, he knew he could think of something to do with the empty space facing Old Canton Road. Inspired by yogurt and candy shops, Fondren Fro-Yo, a frozen yogurt shop, opened its doors in February 2016, giving Jacksonians a place to cool off and hang out.
“I wanted to create a space for families,” says Ritter. “And the reception from the community has been great.”
Anthony channeled his interior design skills to decorate the sweet shop. The bright pink and lime green walls, sparkly swirls on the floor and shiny dispensers filled with candy toppings give the space a fun, whimsical feel. “I wanted to add color and life to that corner,” says Ritter. Even the outside of the store is eye-catching, with colorful awnings and string lights. A small flower garden sits off to the side along with outdoor seating where customers can bring their furry friends.
“It’s the perfect location,” adds Bryan Justice, who manages Fondren Fro-Yo. He and Ritter have been friends for years, and when asked to come on as manager in October of last year, Justice decided he was ready for the change.
Fondren Fro-Yo’s first year in a word? Success. Despite advertising mostly by word of mouth, Ritter says the shop had a great overall turnout. Justice says it’s taken time to learn what people like while still keeping things fresh, but they now have a good mix of regular and new customers each week. He adds that they didn’t know what to expect during the Christmas season, but the warm Mississippi winters have people craving frozen yogurt all year round.
The majority of their regulars are kids, and the shop is usually packed once school gets out in the afternoon. Justice says having a convenient parking area in front of the store makes it easier for parents and carpools to grab treats on the go.
Most of the Fondren Fro-Yo staff is made up of college students, and since Millsaps College students get a discount, they often come by to hang out or take a study break. Local businesses and doctor’s offices also frequent the store, and preschools and churches take field trips to get some frozen treats. Fondren Fro-Yo has even started catering for small events.
Fondren Fro-Yo goes through about 120 gallons of yogurt a month, all from Honey Hill Farms in Arkansas. Justice says they keep several traditional flavors available year-round: Tahitian vanilla, triple chocolate, California tart, and strawberry, as well as at least one sorbet. Other flavors change out every 3-4 weeks. Favorites like sea salt caramel and cookies and cream come back often. And there are also seasonal flavors like watermelon sorbet for the summer and red velvet and candy cane around Christmas.
With 8 frozen yogurt flavors, 2 sorbets, 60 toppings and 8 syrups, customers can create their own frozen yogurt masterpiece. There are even waffle cones and bowls available for those that want a little something extra. All the yogurt ingredients and nutritional information are available upon request in what Justice calls the “Yogurt Bible.” He says they have diabetic-friendly options as well.
Ritter and Justice both try to create a fun, welcoming atmosphere. Ritter enjoys interacting with customers, and Justice loves playing show tunes in the store and will have kids singing Disney musicals with him. “I love coming to work,” he says. “The Fondren neighborhood is really supportive and people thank us for being here.”
Fondren Fro-Yo, located at 2765 Old Canton Rd. in the Woodland Hills Shopping Center, is open from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday and Sunday 12:30-9 p.m.