Swirl It Up owners focus on local angle

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 18, 2012

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — Salisbury went from zero self-serve frozen yogurt shops to two within 10 days.
Swirl It Up opened Wednesday near Lowe’s on Faith Road, hot on the heels of SweetFrog, which opened a few blocks away last week on East Innes Street.
No need for a taste test.
Both shops serve the same kind of yogurt, YoCream, made in Portland, Ore.
But Mike and Angela Allen say Swirl It Up will stand out because of the shop’s local focus. Not a franchise or chain, Swirl It Up is locally owned and operated. The Allens, who live between China Grove and Enochville, came up with the name and logo. They upfit the location next to Capriano’s themselves, down to the hot pink epoxy floor.
Swirl It Up T-shirts came from Ashlee’s Embroidery in Salisbury, and the Allens plan to buy fresh fruit for their toppings bar from local farmers.
“We believe in the local aspect of our business,” Angela Allen said.
Swirl It Up will give away $1,000 four times a year to local charities.
“We didn’t want to be sending part of our profits every month out of state,” said Mike Allen, who also owns MCA Construction. “We want the money to stay in our community.”
The shop-local movement is growing in Salisbury, and the Allens said they believe customers will frequent a yogurt shop where they can post their business cards on a community bulletin board and vote for their favorite local charity with a gumball.
The Allens will pick three charities per quarter, and customers who buy at least eight ounces of yogurt may vote for their favorite charity by dropping gumballs into canisters.
The charity with the most gumballs at the end of the quarter wins $500. Second place wins $300, and third $200. Charities this quarter are Faithful Friends Animal Sanctuary, Relay for Life and Rowan Helping Ministries.
“It’s a way for customers to feel like they are making a difference and giving back,” Angela Allen said.
Per ounce, Swirl It Up costs three cents more than SweetFrog, which charges 39 cents. A 10-ounce Swirl It Up dessert costs $4.20. At SweetFrog, it’s $3.90.
But the Allens said their scales are calibrated to deduct the weight of the cup. A sign assures Swirl It Up customers, “You never pay for the cup. You only pay for the yummy goodness inside.”
Swirl It Up features 12 flavors of yogurt, 18 if you count the swirled flavors, and more than 80 toppings, including wall-mounted dispensers that drop tasty toppings like cinnamon candies and M&Ms onto yogurt.
The canisters are a good way to keep allergens like peanuts separated from other toppings, Mike Allen said.
The Allens also boast a hot topping bar, which features baked items like peach cobbler and fudge brownies kept warm. Customers can create their own a la mode dessert.
A “bottoms” bar offers cookies, animal crackers and even cut-up Moon Pies to go in the bottom of the cup, with the yogurt on top.
With 13 employees, Angela Allen will run the store. She had been a stay-at-home mom for six years to daughter Annalise, who graduated from kindergarten Thursday.
The Allens were surprised how busy they became Wednesday after simply turning on the “open” sign. One customer who ate yogurt for lunch at Swirl It Up returned in the evening with family and friends for another dish.
“This is an excellent location,” Angela Allen said. “We have a lot of foot traffic, and it is a very popular shopping center in town. Salisbury has been very welcoming to us.”
Across the shopping center from Cold Stone Ice Cream, Mike Allen said Swirl It Up offers a healthier alternative and better value.
Swirl It Up will offer options each day for low fat, nondairy and no-sugar-added yogurt.
Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1 to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.