TCBY Enterprises, Inc.
During a nineteen-year period, TCBY Enterprises, Inc. grew from a single store in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to a 3,000-outlet franchise. Selling flavored frozen yogurt, TCBY was known around the world. Until 2004, the tallest building in Arkansas was known as the TCBY Tower and bore those four letters on its upper floors.
Frank Hickingbotham, an Arkansas native, opened his first frozen yogurt store in 1981 in Little Rock. Prior to this, Hickingbotham had been a junior high school principal, an insurance salesman, and the owner of several other food businesses, which he sold before founding TCBY. Hickingbotham had become acquainted with frozen yogurt a few years earlier on a visit to Dallas, Texas, when he sampled some at a Neiman Marcus store and, as legend has it, exclaimed, “This can’t be yogurt!” That became the name he gave to his first store, which sold frozen yogurt made by the same company that supplied Neiman Marcus. The name was changed to “The Country’s Best Yogurt” following a lawsuit from a Texas company with a similar name in 1984; eventually, the name was shortened to “TCBY.”
TCBY’s first location was soon followed by others in Arkansas, including a second store in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) and a third store in Conway (Faulkner County). Hickingbotham enlisted the help of family members to manage the rapidly growing company. He explained later that his first shop was really just “something to do, something to play with, and then I planned to go play golf every day.” Franchising the frozen treat concept began in 1982, with twenty franchises by the end of that year. By 1997, TCBY included 2,782 stores in sixty-five nations. Hickingbotham had been able to capitalize on important consumer trends just beginning to develop, as consumers in the early 1980s were becoming increasingly health conscious.
For almost twenty years, the frozen treat maker’s headquarters were located in downtown Little Rock. In 2000, Capricorn Management Inc.—the parent company of other treat concepts such as Mrs. Fields, Great American Cookies, Pretzel Time, and Pretzelmaker—acquired the company for $137.5 million and moved its offices to Salt Lake City, Utah. Hickingbotham had been chairman and CEO of the corporation for its entire existence. His sons, Herren and Todd, who had been managers of his first and third stores, were also significant stockholders at the time of the sale.
Although TCBY held more than 3,000 franchises at the time of the sale, with sales of $109 million in 1999, interest in frozen yogurt desserts had diminished since the 1980s. In 2008, TCBY had approximately 900 stores and an estimated annual revenue of $10 million worldwide.
For additional information:
Brandon, Phyllis D. “Franklin D. Hickingbotham.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, February 1, 1988, pp. 1D, 4D.
“Frank D. Hickingbotham.” Arkansas Business Hall of Fame. http://www.arkansasbusiness.com/people_hall_fame.asp?id=29 (accessed May 27, 2008).
Lowel, Jim. “TCBY Sells to Capricorn in Deal worth $140 million.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. February 11, 2000, pp. 1A, 13A.
Smith, David. “TCBY Sale to Capricorn is Completed.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. June 2, 2000, pp. 1D, 6D.
TCBY. http://www.tcby.com/ (accessed July 30, 2007).
“TCBY Heats Up.” Chain Store Age: The Newsmagazine for Retail Executives, January, 2008. Online at http://www.tcby.com/external/uploads_tiny/files/TCBY_ChainStoreAge%20Jan%202008.pdf (accessed May 27, 2008).
Staff of TCBY Systems
Staff of the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas
Last Updated: 01/21/2011