Bearden locals are used to coming to Earth Fare for healthy food options, but take a stroll two doors down to Emmy’s Frozen Yogurt and you’ll find natural, good-for-you frozen yogurt unlike anything else in Knoxville. The family-owned and -operated store is ready to become a neighborhood hang-out for birthday parties, group events, date nights and more.
Emmy’s unique recipes are all about the ingredients, or, more importantly, the ingredients you won’t find, such as high fructose corn syrup and artificial colors and flavors. They even offer vegan options, along with gluten-free sandwich cookies, paleo granola and gummy candy with all-natural colors and flavors. The build-your-own yogurt cups are available in four sizes, three of which cost a set rate while the fourth is the pay-by-weight standard typical of other frozen yogurt shops. Owners Michael and Jodie McIntyre want every customer to have a great experience when they visit Emmy’s, but really, it’s not about the yogurt.
The shop is named after the McIntyre's son Michael, nicknamed "Emmy," who worked a part-time job at Menchie's Frozen Yogurt during high school. His parents were thrilled to see him learning not just how to run a register but how to cash a paycheck, manage money and how banks work, not to mention the social development from daily contact with customers. Emmy enjoyed working there for four years when the owner decided to close the franchise and offered the business to the McIntyres. Jodie, a breast cancer survivor with a master’s of education in health promotion and behavioral education, saw this as her opportunity to merge her passions for health and nutrition with educational support for adults with “differing abilities.”
Jodie spent years creating educational systems to support her son’s learning throughout school, many of which were shared in the classroom to help other students as well. Her husband and co-owner, Michael, is a business professor at the University of Tennessee, and he sees that Jodie’s methods are more than good ideas; they’re good business.
“She is using sound educational principles applied to business, things that we’re teaching at UT,” he says.
Ultimately, the McIntyres want to see their methods go beyond frozen yogurt to help other companies hire more employees with differing abilities.
“We hope people get inspired to use the same principles and the same people in their own businesses.”
While Emmy’s currently has three staff members with differing abilities, Jodie is already looking ahead to consider potential needs of future employees. They want Emmy’s to be a “learning laboratory” where different abilities and styles of learning can be explored.
“I know eventually we’ll have someone who is not a strong reader, and we’ll need to make photo versions of these manuals,” she says.
Ashley Leininger is an Honors Scholar major at the University of Tennessee, and when she heard Jodie guest lecture in her Human Development class, she knew she wanted to be a part of Emmy’s. Now as a team lead at the store, she works closely with the McIntyres as well as the team members with differing abilities. All the employees know this shop is about more than frozen yogurt, and they work together toward the mission of empowering the community of differently abled people.
“There’s a lot of acceptance here,” Ashley says. “Things are done right, and we do it together. All we want is to help ourselves, help our customers, help our community.”
Ultimately, community is at the heart of Emmy’s Frozen Yogurt. That’s obvious to Anna Cormier, who comes in every night for her favorite mango yogurt.
“I want to support the neighborhood, and I love the fact that it’s healthy,” Anna says. “It just always feels so nice. It’s good yogurt, a good cause and good people.”
Emmy's Frozen Yogurt
124 N. Forest Park Blvd., Bearden