It’s Not Rocket Science, Says Mr. Yogato’s Rocket Scientist

By: Kate Nerenberg

A rocket scientist by day, Steve Davis dishes out frozen yogurt nightly at his new Dupont Circle shop. Photograph by Chris Leaman.

It’s 9 o’clock on a Saturday night, and Steve Davis is challenging the customers in line outside Mr. Yogato, his frozen-yogurt shop in DC’s Dupont Circle neighborhood. Ten percent off, he says, to anyone who can name the world’s five most populous cities—or recite a speech from the movie Braveheart. Beneath Davis’s baseball cap is an ear-to-ear grin as endearingly goofy as the trivia games that make regulars of first-time visitors.

Mr. Yogato isn’t your usual business, and Davis isn’t your usual businessman: By day he’s a rocket scientist with degrees in aerospace engineering and particle physics. He works for SpaceX, an engineering firm subcontracted by NASA to build space capsules. “My job,” Davis says, “is to make sure the rockets go straight.”

Davis discovered frozen yogurt while working for SpaceX in Los Angeles. He ate at Pinkberry—the habit-forming frozen-yogurt chain—at least once a day.

To get his frosty fix in DC, Davis prevailed upon 21 fellow rocket scientists, friends, and family to invest. “My friends and I always talked about opening a fun, goofy store. But we really have no idea what we’re doing,” he says.

 

He spends about four hours at Mr. Yogato every evening after a day at the office and before more hours of study for his PhD in economics from George Mason. But on this night he seems energized, not tired, as he watches a cashier affix a rubber stamp to a customer’s forehead entitling the bearer to a 20-percent discount. “I’m eating yogurt and asking trivia questions,” he says. “It’s awesome.”

Mr. Yogato, 1515 17th St., NW; 202-629-3531; mryogato.com

This appeared in the October, 2008 issue of The Washingtonian.  

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