SweetFrog founder takes new chain to Midlothian

Derek Cha opened the doors to his new Carytown fast-casual restaurant last week. Photos by Michael Thompson.

Derek Cha says he wants to open 10 Zzaam locations around the region this year. Photos by Michael Thompson.

Derek Cha is adding a second Richmond helping of his burgeoning new Korean food venture – and he’s hungry for more.

The founder of the Sweet Frog frozen yogurt chain plans to open a Zzaam Fresh Korean Grill location at 4508 Commonwealth Center Parkway in the Commonwealth Center Shopping Center. The Korean food purveyor has leased a 1,500-square-foot space at the Midlothian shopping center and plans to open this summer.

Zzaam specializes in customized bowls that cost about $7. Cha launched the business in 2014 with a Richmond food truck and Charlottesville location. He opened a Carytown location in November, making the forthcoming Midlothian location Zzamm’s third overall.

Zzaam's Carytown space opened in November.

Zzaam’s Carytown space opened in November.

The Midlothian store, formerly occupied by Soya Sushi, will be just off Hull Street Road in a shopping center that’s home to Men’s Wearhouse, Michael’s and Stein Mart.

“It was just looking for the right site with good visibility,” Cha said. “Overall, it will be quite similar (to other Zzaam locations).”

The Midlothian Zzaam will be smaller than the Carytown location and will only have beer by the bottle. The Carytown Zzaam has about 20 beers on draft.

Cha said it will cost about $300,000 to open the Midlothian Zzaam, which he is financing himself.

Other locations are in the works in Virginia and beyond, he said, including one franchised Zzaam in Vienna and two in the Albany, New York, area. Cha said he also has plans to open more Zzaams in Midlothian and in Colonial Heights. His goal for 2016 is to add 10 Zzaams to the local market.

“We’re looking for sites in Short Pump,” he said.

Zzaam isn’t the only thing on Cha’s plate. He still owns more than a dozen Sweet Frogs, as well as a minority stake in the frozen yogurt business. He is also part of a group that is trying to develop a water park in Chesterfield, according to a Chesterfield Observer report.

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