Cold Stone Creamery returning to Spokane
Couple here responsible for developing franchisees expect hot growth in region
Kim CromptonMay 3rd, 2002
Cold Stone Creamery Inc. is returning to Spokane, after an earlier brief debut here, and the Spokane couple in charge of developing Cold Stone franchisees in Washington and North Idaho say they foresee strong growth in this region for the national franchiser of ice cream shops.
The couple, Roger and Dianna Johnson, say a Coldstone outlet will open later this month in a 1,500-square-foot leased space at the corner of U.S. 2 and Holland Road near the Northpointe Plaza shopping center. Its one of five expected to open in Washington this year, they say.
Franchisee Mary Han-sen, who will own and operate the North Side outlet, says she hopes to open two more outlets in the Spokane area over the next couple of years if the business venture goes well.
Currently, just four Cold Stone shops are operating in the state, all west of the Cascades, but the Johnsons predict that as many as 40 outlets could be operating in Washington and North Idaho within three to four years. That could include as many as three more in the Spokane area and perhaps one each in Coeur dAlene and Lewiston, they say.
Founded in 1988, but a franchiser only since 1995, Cold Stone is a small player nationally, with 220 outlets now operating, which pales compared with the thousands of established Dairy Queen, Baskin-Robbins, and TCBY stores. Cold Stone, however, has awarded about 450 franchises and has set in motion an aggressive growth plan under which it hopes to have 1,000 stores operating by the end of 2004.
Its becoming quite a phenomenon, says Roger Johnson, who also is president of Citadel Construction Inc., a commercial contractor here. It has evolved in the last two or three years tremendously.
Johnson and his wife, who, in addition to developing franchisees, own a 3 1/2-year-old Cold Stone outlet in Woodinville, Wash., assert that Cold Stonein terms of industry prominencehas become to ice cream what Starbucks Corp. is to coffee and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Corp. is to doughnuts.
Cold Stone outlets sell whats known in the industry as super-premium ice cream, yogurt, and sorbet that employees make fresh daily on site, using proprietary recipes, and then blend to order, adding any of more than 40 mix-ins, such as nuts, fruits, candies, and flavors, on an ice-cold slab of granite. Waffle cones and brownies also are made on site.
Cold Stone also seeks to differentiate itself from competitors by adding entertainment to the ice-cream buying experience. Job candidates, typically high-school and college students, are auditioned, not just interviewed, with the intent of finding outgoing, spontaneous employees willing to sing and entertain customers, usually in exchange for a $1 tip.
The employees have fun, and they make it work, Johnson says.
As area developers for Cold Stone, he and his wife identify franchisee candidates, review their applications, research and approve future outlet locations, oversee store openings, guide cooperative marketing efforts among the franchisees, and provide other ongoing support to them.
Dianna Johnson says she became enthused by the Cold Stone concept in 1996, after visiting an outlet in Post Falls in which an acquaintance had an ownership interest.
I thought, This is where ice cream (as a retail industry) is going, she recalls.
The Post Falls store and one at NorthTown Mall in Spokane were owned by earlier area developers here, but closed after a period of months, Johnson says. She says she and her husband took over as area developers for Cold Stone here in 1997. The Johnsons opened a store in Yakima that year and the Woodinville store in 1998, but closed the Yakima store last year due to unfavorable business conditions there, she says.
Roger Johnson attributes the closure of the earlier Cold Stone stores here partly to the still-formative nature of the business.
Cold Stone was so new and just coming out of the blocks. There has been a certain learning curve, he says.
The other outlets currently operating in the state are located in Bellevue, Vancouver, and Sammamish, and are owned by other franchisees. The new outlets expected to open this year, along with the one here, are to be located in Tukwila, Redmond, Gig Harbor, and probably Issaquah.