Ray Duncan brings kid-friendly froyo to Mammoth at Bongo Froyo
“Yes, I’m starting a froyo shop in a winter resort town. But, to skeptics, I’d say we are a spring and summer town as much as anything else now,” said Ray Duncan, who reported having 15 customers in his store at one time over Presidents’ Day Weekend. The outside temperature was 12 degrees. “People venture forth to do just about everything else when it’s wintery here, so why not eat froyo?”
This winter, Ray Duncan opened Mammoth’s first-ever frozen yogurt joint: Bongo Froyo. His shop is located in the Mammoth Mall.
Duncan, who is originally from Merced, moved to Mammoth Lakes in 2015. He spent a winter ski bumming here in his early twenties, but soon left for Los Angeles. He worked in restaurants for 12 years and spent another 12 working in advertising and marketing. Eventually, he said, “I got to a point in my life where I realized that I couldn’t keep living for someday.” He quit his job in marketing and took a road trip that brought him back to Mammoth.
After reflecting that frozen yogurt was “on every street corner in SoCal, with lines going out the door,” he decided to try to market froyo to Mammoth’s SoCal visitors and locals.
He saw a niche in town for a food service destination where kids and parents alike could hang out.
Hence, Bongo Froyo. He decided to source his yogurt from Honey Hill Farms in Arkansas. It has a texture that is creamy and smooth, with none of the sporadic crystals or fake sugar taste of lower quality frozen yogurt.
He offers 10 flavors at a time, with the option to combine them in twists. He rotates through 30-40 flavors, ranging from full-fat old-fashioned peanut butter, to sweet plain yogurt and gluten and dairy-free options such as mango sorbet and coconut-milk froyo. All flavors have live bacterial cultures in them, like traditional yogurt.
He’s also decided to be eco-friendly about his product. He serves bio-degradable spoons made of corn-starch, and uses paper dishes.
Duncan has compiled over 50 toppings and seven sauces, including classics like crushed peanut butter cups and hot fudge, as well as healthy options like mango and nuts. Some of his more eclectic toppings include mochi, a Japanese gummy candy, sour gummy worms, and miniature moon pies.
“It’s our goal to offer a variety of choices,” said Duncan. “If you want to make healthy decisions, you can do that. But if you want to create the biggest, sloppiest desert ever? You can do that too.”
The interior features colorful tiles and paintings. Duncan said goal was to emulate the Chocolate Room in the 1971 film “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”
When asked what prompted him to start a business in Mammoth, Duncan cited the sense of community he found working and living here during the Dave McCoy era. “I like the people that are here. It’s the real and the raw that you get from folks, which was pretty different coming from L.A.,” said Duncan.
All yogurt and toppings are priced by weight, at $0.64 per ounce. The shop is self-serve, and the frozen yogurt tastes like ice cream. Miraculously, it supposedly has about half the calories and fat, says Duncan.
Froyo Bongo is located next to the Good Life Cafe in the Mammoth Mall. It is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.