For Kody Bui and Duke Nguyen, Yourtopia Frozen Yogurt Lounge in Bettendorf is more than just their new business.
They want it to be a vehicle to give back to those in need, especially children. They know all about that. Both grew up in Vietnam and barely had enough to eat as children.
So, they understand, and that is what drives them.
Yourtopia opened this week.
The serve-yourself shop offers 24 varieties of frozen yogurt and 53 toppings. They also serve tea.
Bui said 100 percent of their revenue from sales today through Wednesday will go to Kids Against Hunger - Quad-Cities Kids efforts at St. John Vianney Catholic Church, Bettendorf. Kids Against Hunger enlists teams of people to help bag food that are sent to starving and malnourished children around the world.
Bui was 8 years old when he came to the United States in the mid-1990s with his parents and five siblings. They were able to do so, in part, because of a program that assisted them because his father fought for the South Vietnamese Army in the Vietnam War.
“When we created this, we wanted to reach out to the community,” Bui said of the new business. “Kids Against Hunger touches our hearts. We were some of those kids.
“We had to find our own food,” Bui said of his childhood.
But when they could catch even the smallest of fish, it was a great day, he said.
Nguyen moved with his family of six to the United States in 1991, when he was 7 years old. They were so poor, he said, he would follow people as they walked to see if they might drop food that he could take home to his family.
Nguyen said they had to add items to watered-down rice to fill their stomachs. One trick was to take bark off of a young banana tree and cut into the soft portion of the inside of the tree. He said they would cut that into pieces, add vinegar and mix it with the rice.
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Bui said his family moved directly to the Quad-Cities. Nguyen’s family had to spend more than six months in a refugee camp in the Philippines.
“We almost did not make it,” he said. “There was a volcano. It was really hard. There wasn’t even enough water for everyone. We were limited to two-three days of water. We had to use it as food, to cook with.”
Today, Bui is a financial planner and Nguyen owns a nail salon business with his wife.
The two friends have hired six people for the lounge. Bui said they visited many similar yogurt stores throughout the United States in larger markets.
But they believe their approach is a bit unique.
“This type of concept has been around,” Bui said. “But not many do a lounge type. Some of the other places are not relaxing. We want to create an atmosphere to come and relax. We want people to stay awhile. We will have the patio open in the summer. We will have events in the summer, and local bands and talent.”
(The original story listed the incorrect charity benefiting from sales revenue.)