Dr. Larry Murphy is professor emeritus at the Garrett Evangelical Seminary, and is a published author. His wife, Dr. Jean Murphy, taught as a professor of education at Chicago State and served at the Erikson Institute as an adjunct professor. Together, they have led incredibly accomplished lives, but are always looking for the next opportunity. Currently, that opportunity is an Evanston frozen yogurt shop, YoFresh Yogurt Café, 635 Chicago Ave.
“When we were traveling in Arizona and we stopped by a coffee shop that was so homey and community-oriented, we said we wanted the same thing,” Dr. Murphy said.
The Murphys wanted to capture both the welcoming atmosphere of the coffee shop and the growing popularity of frozen yogurt. “We decided to combine the two,” Dr. Murphy said.
The Murphys succeeded in both creating a thriving frozen yogurt shop and a popular gathering place for the community and local organizations. The Neighbors for Peace organization meets at YoFresh, and the YWCA holds its monthly “Let’s Talk About Race” conversations there. Birthday parties are also a regular event at the frozen yogurt shop. “This is kind of like a United Nations space here, because you have such a broad range of racial, ethnic, and language groups. It makes a very rich environment,” said Dr. Larry Murphy.
The Murphys encourage people to come in and try their frozen yogurt, but they also believe it is important to create an environment in which people feel comfortable to stay. “It’s a commercial establishment, but it’s more than that,” said Dr. Murphy.
To help reinforce that welcoming atmosphere, the Murphys have a children’s play area with dozens of toys, a Little Free Library, a board game collection, a lounge area, and a television, which they say is almost never used, other than during their watch parties for the State of the Union address.
“We are in many ways, an undiscovered jewel in the community. Once people come in, they are attracted to come back,” said Dr. Larry Murphy.
In the very front of YoFresh, the Murphys have proudly hung their “wall of fame,” a collection of pictures that they describe as a “rotating display of guests.” The collection gives the impression that, to the Murphys, customers are not just customers, they are family.
Dr. Jean Murphy said she is grateful that the front door of YoFresh was handicap accessible, because it made handicapped people feel welcome.
By the “wall of fame” and the children’s play area, the Murphys have hung a white board with the following proverbs written on it: “Everyone is welcome, use kind words, ignore mean ones, say please and thank you, laugh and giggle, be silly, clean up after yourself, play fair, too much TV is bad, too much reading is good, use your imagination.”
The idea of full retirement does not attract the Murphys. “No-way-José” Dr. Jean Murphy said about the prospect of retiring, after a hearty laugh. “Retirement [from teaching] wasn’t stepping down, it was simply entering the next phase,” she said.
Dr. Larry Murphy said that they always make sure their ingredients are acceptable to as many diets as possible. When keeping inclusivity in mind, the Murphys, it seems, did not forget their food.