Jimi Cardarelli and his wife Lindsay Blaz bought Top A Lot in 2012 with the help of Cardarelli’s brother Steve. For them, it was a welcome relief from restaurant life.
Cardarelli has decades of experience in the restaurant industry, having formerly worked at Tiny’s (now IHOP) in Capitola, and the Red Apple Cafe in Watsonville. He says opening Top A Lot was a step toward retirement, where he can now employ students and young people and work when he likes.
That is, when he’s not playing guitar, singing or yelling in the local heavy metal band Rumble Steelskin.
Are people surprised when they find out you own a yogurt store?
JIM CARDARELLI: Yeah, I also have a Harley that’s usually parked out front. Most people think I own a motorcycle shop or something—but I’m not qualified for that. Back in the ’90s I was actually homeless for two-and-a-half years. I went to jail and got out and stayed sober. I lived in a Sober Living Environment (SLE) and worked. I saved up and now own a business here. A lot of the guys that work at the jail come here and they’re like “Hey Jimi!” because I used to work in the kitchen there.
Why a yogurt shop? Did you ever think about a restaurant?
We were looking for a place to buy that was affordable, and we used to come here a lot when Jerry Zanzinger owned it. Everything that we could afford then in restaurants was screwed up—there was either no business or the place needed a complete facelift and extra work. I left a note for [Zanzinger] at the time, and he called me and we bought it. We have kept everything the same since.
Do you get any weird flavor suggestions?
We’ve gotten bacon-maple donut, mango chili, and hibiscus lime. I’ll also try something weird once in a while and end up throwing half of it away. Like cucumber. Lots of times we will think of flavors from our childhood and we will make a flavor, like Mexican chocolate.