Fro-yo frenzy storms the Corner

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A student enjoys some frozen yogurt while studying.

“Peanut butter is tight! Peanut butter is gooood,” said Rob Archer, owner of Arch’s Frozen Yogurt, lauding his favorite flavor at the newly renovated frozen yogurt shop on the Corner.

During the summer, Arch’s made the switch from over-the-counter service to the trendier self-serve setup. With a greater choice of flavors and toppings for customers, the change was inevitable.

“It’s an industry trend that’s been coming this way from California for the last six years,” Archer said.

Stocked with brand-new yogurt machines, Arch’s currently offers 10 flavors and will soon offer 12. Each day will feature options including plain tart, a fruity tart flavor, sorbets and a healthier choice in the form of one of Arch’s low-calorie Skinny flavors. You’ll find the usual suspects at the toppings bar — fruit, granola and candy — as well as some imaginative additions; Archer recommended the mango poppers, a sort of soft candy filled with mango juice, or the Reese’s peanut butter sauce. Your creation is priced by weight at 49 cents per ounce.

But one question lingers on everyone’s mind — what about the Archers? The giant chalkboard menu of the shop’s signature blends has not made an appearance in the new store — yet.

“The Archers have not left … we’ve had a lot of people come in ready for fist-to-cuffs [over their absence],” Archer said, with a punch-the-air gesture to match.

He explained that now customers have the option of creating their own combination to be blended into an Archer, and the menu will soon return to the wall with about 10 classic options. Customers can design their own smoothies as well.

“I think [the switch to self-serve was] definitely a good idea,” third-year College student A.J. Nair said. “It makes things quicker; I can just come in and out without having to wait for a really long time.”

But not everyone is excited about the renovations, which traded a dim, cozy lounge for tangerine walls and a bright color scheme typical of other frozen yogurt joints.

“I think it’s just as delicious as it has been in years past, but I definitely miss the atmosphere that the store had before they revamped it,” third-year Architecture student Meredyth Sanders said.

Students particularly miss the cozy couches that used to grace the shop’s floor, and the wall on which patrons could draw with markers. Archer, however, said both would be returning shortly.

Rob and his wife Sandy Archer have dominated the frozen yogurt market on the Corner for almost 20 years. Their story began in 1984 as undergraduate students and track athletes at the University; in fact, they met while training in the weight room. Rob studied in the Engineering School, and Sandy earned a degree in economics from the College. Upon graduation, they both continued to the Darden School.

“It was always a dream of ours to operate a business here in town,” Rob said. “We love the community here, we love being on Grounds, and we love living here. The blessing in our business has been connection with students, workers, and the community, so through the business we’ve gotten to meet lots of people and interact with lots of students.”

But now, Arch’s faces some competition with the arrival of Berry Berry Frozen Yogurt on the Corner.

“I’ve tried Berry Berry, it was also pretty good,” Nair said. “I feel like all frozen yogurt is somewhat similar, but I like them both equally.”

But one block away from Arch’s, Berry Berry’s owner Mike Zhu would beg to differ. To him, not all frozen yogurt tastes alike, and he proudly mentioned how his use of “high-quality ingredients” sets his frozen yogurt apart.

In addition to old favorites such as vanilla and chocolate, Berry Berry regularly touts an abundance of exotic flavors including mango tart, pink guava, coconut and non-dairy alternatives such as strawberry made with soy. Currently, Berry Berry offers customers 10 delicious fro-yo options priced at 45 cents per ounce. A wide variety of toppings is also available to customers, ranging from fresh fruit to candy bars to fruit poppers and gummy candy.

Modeled after other successful frozen yogurt establishments, Berry Berry is self-serve, giving customers the opportunity to “freestyle” the contents of their hot pink or lime green cup.

Quality frozen yogurt, however, is not the only focus at Berry Berry. Zhu personally greets customers as they enter the door, offering sample cups to those who have never tried Berry Berry’s concoctions.

When opening his establishment on the Corner, Zhu had hoped to provide an alternative to Arch’s former pre-prepared options. Although Zhu acknowledged that “competition never sleeps,” he is more concerned with maintaining the high quality rather than trying to outdo a neighboring establishment, saying “it all depends on the product.”

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