J.J. Rodriguez stands proudly behind the checkout counter at his newly opened business Berrylicious on Sugarland Highway in Clewiston.
CLEWISTON — As of almost a month ago, Clewiston has its very own frozen-yogurt shop so lovers of that sweet year-round treat no longer need to drive a long ways to get their smooth, heat-quenching desserts.
In fact, it’s right down the street, appropriately located on Sugarland Highway (U.S. 27). J.J. Rodriguez’s new business Berrylicious is at 307 E. Sugarland, next door to his father’s eatery, Julio’s Cafe Tropical. (The elder Rodriguez is a Clewiston city commissioner.)
J.J., who’s 24, says he’d always wanted to go into business for himself, and so while he was attending North Carolina Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount, N.C., studying toward a bachelor’s degree in business administration a few years back, in between knocking baseballs around their diamonds, he conceived of this idea.
Berrylicious marries J.J.’s love of going to frozen-confectionery places along the coast with his business background and even with the curriculum he taught for a time at Moore Haven Junior/Senior High School. (Surely, blending flavors of yogurt with tangy or crunchy toppings or sweet berries qualifies as science, right?)
He started teaching there out of college, science classes for sixth- and eighth-graders, while taking on the role of head varsity baseball coach for the Terriers, a cap he continues to wear. The younger Mr. Rodriguez, you see, saw some success at Wesleyan. “Earned my degree in business administration, and I also played four years of college baseball there. I played first and third. I got all-conference, a couple of player-of-the-weeks, I got U.S.A. Athletic Conference All-Academic Team, just to name a couple of different accolades.”
But this story’s about berries, and yogurt, so think sweets. “I always had this vision, you know, to do something like this. I’ve always liked going to these places on the coast, and that’s what’s driven me to want to do this on my own. Clewiston doesn’t have anything like this. It’s been open about three weeks now,” he said during a visit around lunchtime on a recent Friday that was quite nippy for South Florida.
Even so, business has been, on recent cool or cold days, and is “just pretty much steady.” There were two groups with kids in the room at 12:30. From 3 p.m. on, he says, every hour is quite busy until closing at 9 on weekdays (except Friday). “It’s always going. There were probably 20 or 30 people in here just a little bit ago,” J.J. said.
He points out that “I haven’t had a hot day yet,” hinting he believes traffic at Berrylicious will rise with the temperatures. Daily hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 to 10 on Friday and Saturday.
Berrrylicious’ menu consists of frozen yogurt only (no ice cream), and it’s self-serve with the nozzles lining a stretch of wall preceded by a panel holding the different size cups. “We have eight flavors and about 20 different toppings that you can put inside the cups as well.”
The yogurts are all low-fat, one with no sugar added and one is nondairy. The flavors are white vanilla, dulce de leche, milk chocolate, mango surprise, coconut, cake batter, cheesecake and strawberry. Among the toppings are chocolate chips, M&Ms, rainbow Gummi worms, popping strawberry and mango pearls, blueberries, coconut, maraschino cherries and pineapple, cheesecake and Heath bar bites, and then there are the toppers, including healthy granolas, flakes, nuts and cookie crumbles and sprinkles … but we don’t want to give away the store here.
How’s business? “Good. We get a lot of kids in, and lots of adults. They love the process. It’s friendly to the adults, friendly to the kids, and the kids love the color scheme thing here. It drives them crazy. We have child-size tables that they like.”
Mr. Rodriguez is grateful for the good patronage he’s had from the people of Clewiston and thinking about how to help students’ fundraisers for the various causes and activities they take part in, and he declared he’ll be coming out with some promotional ideas soon.
“I want to thank everyone who came out and supported me. I look forward to working with the schools and different programs. While I was in college, I always thought of what I could bring to Clewiston. And I hope everyone can enjoy their hometown local frozen yogurt shop as a place where friends, families and kids can gather and enjoy a delicious treat in a family-friendly environment.
“And you don’t have to drive to the coast anymore for frozen yogurt. Enjoy and God bless.”