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New yogurt shop owner keeps one eye on nonprofits

BY JORDAN MONTGOMERY | SEPTEMBER 29, 2011 7:20 AM

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Frozen yogurt and weapons of mass destruction don't have that much in common. But for Veronica Tessler, they occupy her days.

Tessler is the owner of newly opened Yotopia, a self-serve frozen yogurt shop at 132 S. Clinton St. Though owning and operating a small business in Iowa City is a challenge in itself, she also works for the Stanley Foundation, a nonprofit organization that focuses on peace and security issues.

Her work for the foundation — which is named after the same family as Stanley Hall — focuses on issues related to stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction like nuclear and biological weapons.

The two vastly different occupations run her life, she said, but her business partners have offered assistance with her latest endeavor.

"She's very driven, and she's very focused," said Derek Favara, one of her business partners at Yotopia. "When she has a goal, she works on it until the goal is achieved."

Tessler's hard work has forced her to sacrifice some of her other interests.

"I have no social life," she said. " I have been working around the clock, and it's been quite challenging but it's also been so fun."

Tessler is a native of Virginia, and she holds a degree in political science from Virginia Commonwealth University. While in school, she also studied in Italy and Hawaii. During a visit to her grandmother in California, she was introduced to the concept of self-serve frozen yogurt.

After keeping the idea in her head for about three years, Tessler said, she "jumped" on the available spot in downtown Iowa City this summer.

"I have been living in Iowa for four years, and I love this town, and I wanted to bring something that I loved to this town," she said.

UI student Holly Brus, a Yotopia employee, said Tessler is on to something.

"Iowa City is really healthy, so I think there was a need for it," Brus said. "There are successful ice-cream places, but there are no frozen-yogurt places. And it's open late, which is really convenient."

Tessler was attracted to the idea of a self-serve frozen yogurt shop because she is a self-proclaimed picky eater and annoying customer.

"The idea that people can serve themselves and make it exactly what they want is fulfilling both for the customer and the employee," she said.

Last week, Tessler was in Kenya attending conferences for the foundation that focused mostly on preventing the movement of weapons of mass destruction into the countries of East Africa. This week, however, she was rushing around her new shop serving up samples of frozen yogurt flavors including apple strudel, chocolate pistachio, and red velvet cake.

"Crazy is the word to describe it," she said. "I don't advocate that anybody do what I'm doing — it's totally insane."


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