Bernice A. Edlow, 70, founded Yogurt Tree shops

August 03, 1997|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Bernice A. Edlow, who tired of being a homemaker in the mid-1970s and opened a yogurt stand in Lexington Market that sprouted into the chain of Yogurt Tree shops in Maryland and Japan, died July 18 of a heart attack at St. Joseph's Hospital in Towson.

Mrs. Edlow, who was 70 and lived in Northwest Baltimore, opened the first Yogurt Tree shop at Lexington Market in 1975 after seeing the success of a similar ice cream shop in New York.

From the first day of her business, lines of waiting customers ringed the stall.

"She seemed to know it would be successful," said her husband, Theodore Edlow, whom she married in 1944. "She sensed it would be a winner. She was in the right place at the right time."

Within four years of the first shop's opening, 11 other Yogurt Tree stands popped up in the Baltimore area, including ones in Hopkins Plaza, Mondawmin Mall, Reisterstown Road Plaza, Columbia, Westview and Annapolis malls. The Yogurt Tree also sold its product to area supermarkets.

Hoping to reduce "flavor fatigue," Mr. Edlow said the business also increased its number of flavors from the traditional chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and butter pecan to a variety of 16 -- including a favorite known as "Juan Valdez" coffee.

"She had a thoughtful way of treating the business, never wanting the customer to tire of coming there," said Adam McNeil, who works in another stall at Lexington Market.

In the mid-1980s, Japanese investors opened 21 Yogurt Tree shops in Tokyo. They closed in the early 1990s.

Friends and former customers said Mrs. Edlow was a tireless worker who did virtually everything at the Lexington Market shop, from pouring the yogurt for customers to keeping the books to cleaning the machines.

"She was always concerned about whether the customer liked the yogurt or not -- that was real important to her," said Linda Harris, a Yogurt Tree regular for many years. "She became friends with everyone she met."

Mrs. Edlow also had an amazing memory and after two visits to her stall she knew what flavor each customer preferred.

After making a sale, she always encouraged the customer to "enjoy" as she handed them their yogurt.

Born Bernice Amernick in Baltimore, she graduated from Southern High School in 1944 and attended the Maryland Institute, College of Art.

She did not want to sell ice cream; instead she sought a product that was a low-calorie, healthful treat that was similar to ice cream.

"She was very preceptive and knew what she wanted," her husband said, adding that a Frederick County dairy made the yogurt.

All of the Yogurt Tree shops have closed in recent years except the original one at Lexington Market, where her husband works.

Services were July 20.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by two sons, Jonathan Edlow of Boston and Richard Edlow of Baltimore; a daughter, Nancy Gordon of Baltimore; a sister, Harriett Weisenthal of Silver Spring; and five grandchildren.

Pub Date: 08/03/97

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