Banking on the bubble (tea)

Another homegrown frozen yogurt chain has expanded beyond Richmond.

Bobalicious, which opened its first store in Mechanicsville about a year ago, will open a location this weekend in Hampton Roads.

The new store is in the MacArthur Center mall in downtown Norfolk in what used to be a Starbucks kiosk. It’s the chain’s fourth store. A fifth, its first franchise, will open near VCU in two weeks.

Bobalicious founder and CEO Rick Oeur said he’s not stopping there.

“If everything goes right, we’re looking to expand to 100 locations,” Oeur said. “That’s the magic number.”

That magic number will take $3 million to $5 million to reach, Oeur said. The company is in talks with investors to raise the money, he said.

The Norfolk kiosk location marks the launch of a new concept for Oeur’s young company.

Mall kiosks will be one of three variations on the self-serve concept that he will offer in his push to sell franchises. The other store designs include the storefront locations and in-line spaces in mall food courts.

“Our product is an impulse buy,” Oeur said. “We want to get in front of people.”

The Norfolk location is corporate owned, as are locations at Mechanicsville Turnpike, Chesterfield Towne Center and Southpark Mall in Colonial Heights.

The company is licensed to sell franchises in Virginia and is looking to do the same in other states, Oeur said.

It’s all part of Oeur’s bid to differentiate Bobalicious from what seems like an endless flow of frozen yogurt shops. Bobalicious competes with 11 frozen yogurt companies operating about 20 locations in the area.

“The yogurt war is hot and heavy right now,” he said. “Anybody can sell frozen yogurt nowadays. But we’re not a one-trick pony.”

As its name implies, Bobalicious tries to stand out by also selling what it calls boba drinks, also known as bubble tea, which is like a tea smoothie with tapioca balls.

“We want [bubble tea] to be hotter than frozen yogurt,” Oeur said, adding that the company is also adding specialty coffees to its menu.

Bobalicious is the second Richmond-based frozen yogurt chain to expand out of the area. It follows in the footsteps of the larger and ever-expanding Sweet Frog, which has dozens of locations across the country.

Sweet Frog recently scored venture capital from Shockoe Slip-based private equity firm Boxwood Capital Partners.

Going after the kiosk market offers a cheaper alternative for potential Bobalicious franchisees.

Opening a kiosk is about 10 percent cheaper than a storefront, Oeur said.

Although prices vary by mall, getting a kiosk up and running will run a franchisee between $150,000 and $175,000, Oeur said.

Leases are signed with the malls themselves, with terms of five to 10 years and rates between $75 and $125 per square foot per year, he said.

With its Virginia franchise program in place, Oeur said his company sells franchises for a $25,000 fee. Bobalicious also takes a 4 percent to 6 percent royalty fee.

That money comes with support, branding, location scouting and training for franchisees, he said, plus access to a vendor pipeline for equipment, supplies and ingredients.

While Bobalicious has grown quickly to 35 employees and multiple locations, Oeur, 42, is juggling more than frozen yogurt.

He also owns three other Richmond businesses: Sunrise Carpet and Vinyl, Capital Warehouse and maintenance company Advanced Contracting Services.

“I’m crazy, I guess,” he said.

Another homegrown frozen yogurt chain has expanded beyond Richmond.

Bobalicious, which opened its first store in Mechanicsville about a year ago, will open a location this weekend in Hampton Roads.

The new store is in the MacArthur Center mall in downtown Norfolk in what used to be a Starbucks kiosk. It’s the chain’s fourth store. A fifth, its first franchise, will open near VCU in two weeks.

Bobalicious founder and CEO Rick Oeur said he’s not stopping there.

“If everything goes right, we’re looking to expand to 100 locations,” Oeur said. “That’s the magic number.”

That magic number will take $3 million to $5 million to reach, Oeur said. The company is in talks with investors to raise the money, he said.

The Norfolk kiosk location marks the launch of a new concept for Oeur’s young company.

Mall kiosks will be one of three variations on the self-serve concept that he will offer in his push to sell franchises. The other store designs include the storefront locations and in-line spaces in mall food courts.

“Our product is an impulse buy,” Oeur said. “We want to get in front of people.”

The Norfolk location is corporate owned, as are locations at Mechanicsville Turnpike, Chesterfield Towne Center and Southpark Mall in Colonial Heights.

The company is licensed to sell franchises in Virginia and is looking to do the same in other states, Oeur said.

It’s all part of Oeur’s bid to differentiate Bobalicious from what seems like an endless flow of frozen yogurt shops. Bobalicious competes with 11 frozen yogurt companies operating about 20 locations in the area.

“The yogurt war is hot and heavy right now,” he said. “Anybody can sell frozen yogurt nowadays. But we’re not a one-trick pony.”

As its name implies, Bobalicious tries to stand out by also selling what it calls boba drinks, also known as bubble tea, which is like a tea smoothie with tapioca balls.

“We want [bubble tea] to be hotter than frozen yogurt,” Oeur said, adding that the company is also adding specialty coffees to its menu.

Bobalicious is the second Richmond-based frozen yogurt chain to expand out of the area. It follows in the footsteps of the larger and ever-expanding Sweet Frog, which has dozens of locations across the country.

Sweet Frog recently scored venture capital from Shockoe Slip-based private equity firm Boxwood Capital Partners.

Going after the kiosk market offers a cheaper alternative for potential Bobalicious franchisees.

Opening a kiosk is about 10 percent cheaper than a storefront, Oeur said.

Although prices vary by mall, getting a kiosk up and running will run a franchisee between $150,000 and $175,000, Oeur said.

Leases are signed with the malls themselves, with terms of five to 10 years and rates between $75 and $125 per square foot per year, he said.

With its Virginia franchise program in place, Oeur said his company sells franchises for a $25,000 fee. Bobalicious also takes a 4 percent to 6 percent royalty fee.

That money comes with support, branding, location scouting and training for franchisees, he said, plus access to a vendor pipeline for equipment, supplies and ingredients.

While Bobalicious has grown quickly to 35 employees and multiple locations, Oeur, 42, is juggling more than frozen yogurt.

He also owns three other Richmond businesses: Sunrise Carpet and Vinyl, Capital Warehouse and maintenance company Advanced Contracting Services.

“I’m crazy, I guess,” he said.

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Ruben Foster
Ruben Foster
10 years ago

Really? Does Richmond need MORE frozen places to grab frozen yougurt with candy in it? Just ask the people at Coldstone Creamery how sales are coming along.

Ruben Foster
Ruben Foster
10 years ago
Reply to  Ruben Foster

oops. Put one too many ‘frozens’ in there.

Lori Bush
Lori Bush
10 years ago

Free enterprise! I think it’s great, there is always risks, but this is what drives our country. I love Cold Stone Creamery, but it is way outside my budget! My first job was managing High’s Ice Cream in Colonial Heights, it just goes against my grain to pay so much for ice cream whether its Cold Stone or Brewsters. There has always been ice cream available on every corner, why not frozen yogurt?

Mike Ogilvie
Mike Ogilvie
10 years ago

Ruben – generally I agree. But I don’t think Coldstone Creamery is a good example – they’re outrageously expensive. If they have dwindling sales it’s probably due more to a slacking of interest in luxury food than in the population’s general sweet tooth.

Jess
Jess
10 years ago

This is great news to me! I was literally asking my roommate the other day where I could get bubble tea around here! Excited to sample it!

Gary Huff
Gary Huff
10 years ago

Perhaps we should ask the people at TCBY what happened. Didn’t we go through a frozen yogurt craze in the ’90’s? How does the Sweet Frog/Bobalicious business model differ from the TCBY business model in the 1990s?

Lori Bush
Lori Bush
10 years ago

How does it differ??? Is this generation different than the 90’s? Have you studied their business models? There wouldn’t be yogurt shops opening all over town if the demand wasn’t there. Do you go grocery shopping? Have you looked on the shelves at all the healthier food options available today that we didn’t have in the 90’s. There is a high demand for these products today! It was a fad in the 90’s, today it is a way of life!

Lori Bush
Lori Bush
10 years ago

FYI there are currently 470 TCBY shops nationwide and going strong. They are all over the Carolinas! They were aquired by Mrs. Fields Famous Brands in 2000.

Paulie
Paulie
10 years ago

That’s the best they could do with signage? “Line Starts Here”??