Illustration by Kevin McFadin
Someday, when a Keanu Reeves-type figure emerges to destroy the Matrix-like grid that has kept all of humankind blissfully unaware of its own enslavement, he will wonder by what insidious means the human race was brought to its knees. Was it something introduced into the water supply? Chem trails? No. Just as Charlton Heston was horrified to learn that Soylent Green was made from people, our hero will blanch upon learning that the means of our downfall was Sweet Frog.
It's the only possible explanation for the mass brainwashing that we in Virginia — and now, 24 other states — have fallen under. We stand in long, snaking queues for our Birthday Cake and Original Tart flavors, which I am sure contain some brain-altering chemical that makes us crave more frozen yogurt. No, wait. Not just any frozen yogurt, but Sweet Frog. In just five years, the modest little fro-yo shop that began in Short Pump has more than 320 stores in states as far-flung as California and Wyoming.
There are two Sweet Frog stores so close to each other on West Broad Street in Short Pump that it has caused me to wonder how much frozen yogurt I could burn off in calories between the two. Alas, I could only drop 37 calories walking the half-mile between them, which means I could only eat about an ounce. If I did the same for the two closest Krispy Kremes, I could eat four Original Glazed.
So why has all of Richmond gone batty over frozen yogurt? A franchisee in Pennsylvania offers this explanation: "It does something to your spirit," he says. "It makes an experience that people just want to keep coming back for."
It sounds ridiculous when you hear it. We're talking about frozen yogurt here, people! It's been around since TCBY; self-serve yogurt shops have earned their spot in the annals of ubiquity. And yet, we all seem to be under this delusion that Sweet Frog is something special. When someone pops the question — "Hey, you wanna get Sweet Frog?" — our hearts leap a bit, our faces flush with delight, our salivary glands ache with pleasure and we invariably consent with, "I do."
Believe me, though, not everyone is being brainwashed. There are those who think that Sweet Frog is pumping more than just creamy deliciousness into our cups. Well, it's no secret that the FROG part of Sweet Frog stands for Fully Rely on God. That's a turn-off for a lot of people, who don't want their yogurt topped with Skittles and religion. Think I'm exaggerating? Read any online article about Sweet Frog and scroll down to the comments section, where you will find raging debates on Christianity, but rarely on frozen yogurt.
I have to agree there is a bit of a cult of Sweet Frog, and like Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers , even I try to resist. I am always a bit suspicious of anyone or anything that gets too big for its britches. So many new stores popping up (I just noticed construction of one going on in my attic), the recent high-profile sponsorship of the New York Yankees, and reports of plans for a Sweet Frog TV show and a Chuck E. Cheese-like entertainment complex just seem to be too much. I can foresee the bursting of the fro-yo bubble, and it's going to be messy.
In the meantime, though, I continue to fill my cup with a layer of vanilla on the bottom, a dollop each of strawberry and cappuccino, and a topping of strawberries and shaved choco late. What the heck. I mean, we all know what happened to Donald Sutherland at the end of Body Snatchers , right?