“This is a story that should inspire all men and encourage their wives to go shopping, because you never know what can come of it.”
So says Georgia Hickingbotham, wife of Frank Hickingbotham, Founder, Chairman of the Board, and CEO of TCBY Enterprises, Inc.
Those who know me know that I am a child of the ’80s and look back fondly at styles, music, etc of that decade. While shoulder pads, robin’s egg-blue eye shadow, and crazy big hair are now decidedly unhip, I have a special place in my heart for all of it. This includes the foods of these loud and colorful years: think pudding pops, Tab, and the subject of today’s post.
Thirty-plus years after TCBY came on the scene, frozen yogurt continues to be a big deal. But the new wave of self-serve yogurt bars, including Cherry Berry and its top-’till-you-drop brethren, owe everything to Mr. Hickingbotham and his self-professed shopaholic wife.
Back to Mrs. H’s quote, then. The story goes that she loved her some shopping and frequented an in-store frozen yogurt shop. Her husband sometimes accompanied and once sampled some of this beloved frozen treat. Mrs. H. shares hub’s reaction:
“‘Yogurt? Yuck! I hate yogurt.’ Finally, he agreed to take a bite. And with that, history was made. He said, ‘This can’t be yogurt!'”
Hickingbotham was so enamored by the fro yo that he traced its origins to Daniel Brackeen at his manufacturing facility in Dallas, Texas. Mr. and Mrs. H. wasted no time in convincing Brackeen to let them purchase and distribute his product.
This Can’t Be Yogurt! (later renamed The Country’s Best Yogurt) opened its first store in Little Rock, Arkansas in September 1981. Sales were $153.69 that first day and grew to $2466.46 by week’s end. By 1984, TCBY had grown to 100 stores; by 1987, 400. Clearly, the Hickingbothams had struck frozen gold.
An article in Chain Store Age sums up the early years:
The launch of TCBY was met by a very receptive public. The idea that yogurt could be as delicious as ice cream—yet healthier—was the panacea that America craved in the 1980s and early 1990s. TCBY grew via franchising to 1,000-plus stores, expanding the frozen-yogurt phenomenon with every new market opened.
Sons Todd and Herren Hickingbotham were also involved in store management and Herren eventually took on the role of President. The company was sold to Mrs. Fields Famous Brands (yes, she of the cookies) in 2000 and is still kicking today. Its website boasts 350+ locations and crazy-fun flavors such as Indonesian Taro, German Lebkuchen, Japanese Black Sesame, and Brazilian Guanabana.
While parachute pants, boom boxes, and Cabbage Patch kids sit on the shelves of yesteryear, it’s still possible to get a taste of those ’80s when you visit a TCBY franchise. Now THAT’S bitchen!