Marshall alumnus returns to ’SC with sweet treats

A delectable cross between Yogurtland and Cold Stone, the new 21 Choices Frozen Yogurt is the perfect cure for the distracting mid-homework cravings that USC students often suffer.

More than two years after the Undergraduate Student Government promised to bring 21 Choices to campus, the frozen yogurt shop, which is owned by USC alumnus Gudu Husson and his brother Tony, has finally opened its doors in the University Village to students and community members.

Decisions, decisions · 21 Choices, which opened its University Village location in August, first made a name for itself in Pasadena. - Mike Lee | Daily Trojan

Decisions, decisions · 21 Choices, which opened its University Village location in August, first made a name for itself in Pasadena. - Mike Lee | Daily Trojan

Intrigued by the new dessert shop, students — who seem to have a very special bond with frozen yogurt — are often lined up out the door.

“The best message was not that we opened, but that people wanted us there,” Husson said. “It’s just icing on the cake that it happens to be at my alma mater.”

According to Husson, his involvement in the entrepreneurship program at USC’s Marshall School of Business as an undergraduate provided much of his inspiration for starting 21 Choices, which has three other locations in Claremont and Pasadena, the first of which opened in 1989.

“It’s the professors who really make or break the deal,” he said. “Some people can really turn you off from what you want to do or they can enhance your love for what you want to do.”

For Husson, it was the latter, combined with a desire to create a truly delicious product that he and his brother — who are both lactose intolerant — could eat, that sparked the creation of 21 Choices. Named for the carefully selected 21 ingredients that the brothers limit themselves to in making the frozen yogurt, the shops feature solely organic ingredients which make their yogurt healthier than most sweet-tooth fulfilling alternatives.

“The organic thing is overused now, but it’s what we’ve believed in for 20 years, before it was in,” Husson said.

While all of the ingredients used in 21 Choices’ yogurts are still organic, there are many more than just 21.

“Now we have a lot more ingredients because society in general is starting to be more health-conscious, but not so boring, so we can provide the fun, the excitement, and still have the really healthy goodness of organic fruit, or Valrhona chocolate imported from France,” Husson said. “Those kinds of ingredients simply were not available back then.”

With more than 400 yogurt choices that 21 Choices’ yogurt chefs can make, there is no doubt that students will make the new dessert shop a regular stop in an attempt to try them all. Each day, five or six choices are featured, ranging from the more common French vanilla to the more unique chocolate peppermint schnapps. If you are having a hard time deciding which kind to purchase, not to worry — the cheerful employees pass out free samples of each while you wait in line.

If none of the yogurt choices strike your fancy, you can propose suggestions for new flavors, which is one of Husson’s favorite parts about having his shop so close to a college campus.

“These college kids are really creative,” he said. “They come up with these great ideas for yogurt choices and ingredients and the yogurt chef can make them into a reality 90 percent of the time.”

Beyond the yogurt choices lies a world of mix-ins, including strawberries, bananas, Reese’s peanut butter cups, graham crackers, sprinkles, gummy worms, gummy bears, cookie dough, Twinkies, HoHos and Ding Dongs — just to name a few. The transparent, futuristic-looking plastic bins that house the fun-filled mix-ins make you feel as if you have just walked into a candy store.

“Sometimes people just want to be decadent for a day and we encourage that,” Husson said. “If someone wants to get Ding Dongs with their Valrhona chocolate yogurt, go ahead and do it.”

The only downside: Each mix-in costs an additional 95 cents, on top of the $3.30 or more that a serving of yogurt alone costs.

“I got peach with nothing else because each mix-in is almost a dollar extra,” said Kim Chan, a junior majoring in business administration. “It’s really expensive, but I guess that’s the price you pay for having it so close to campus in such a convenient location.”

Although devouring the frozen yogurt comes in as a close second, the best part of the 21 Choices experience is being asked by the employee who mixes the frozen yogurt to take a bite and tell her if you like it. If you don’t like it, she will start all over.

“Just because you ask for something to be made, doesn’t mean you have to buy it,” Husson said. “That’s so anti-friendly, so anti-business. Our value system does not allow that.”

The brothers’ clear set of values and outstanding customer service reflect on their excitement about bringing 21 Choices to the USC area — a sentiment that’s undeniably reciprocated by USC students. With mutual excitement this strong — and healthy frozen yogurt that tastes this good — the new 21 Choices is sure to become a long-standing staple in the USC community.