Following an expansion trail from out West, a chain that specializes in oversized cookies is expected to make its Central Virginia debut with several locations this summer.
Utah-based Crumbl Cookies has an initial wave of stores in the works from two different franchisees in Bon Air, Mechanicsville, Colonial Heights and Glen Allen.
Crumbl sells its cookies in one-, four-, six- and 12-packs in a variety of rotating flavors, as well as ice cream flavored like its cookies. Chocolate chip and chilled sugar cookies are always in stock, the latter of which is a personal favorite of Dixie Fentriss, one of the franchisees bringing the concept to the region.
Fentriss plans to open a store this summer at 2003 Huguenot Road Suite 103, in the Publix-anchored Huguenot Village Shopping Center in Bon Air.
“They’re both amazing and deserve to be on the menu all the time,” Fentriss said. “I loved the concept of something new and fresh to bring to the market every week.”
The Bon Air store will be 1,400 square feet and plans to hire 40 employees. It’ll open around the same time as taco joint Chicano Boy Taco, which is expanding from Staunton.
Fentriss said she thinks Crumbl can carve out a space for itself with the chain’s signature rotating cookie menu and open-kitchen experience.
“There are some great dessert concepts in Richmond. I love the food scene in Richmond. Crumbl is a little bit different in that they bring fresh gourmet cookies to an open kitchen concept. You can walk in as a customer and see to the back of the kitchen where the cookies are being balled, baked and dressed,” she said.
Fentriss said the business’s takeout- and delivery-only format seemed a good fit for the coronavirus pandemic and into the future as the country moves past it. They also offer catering.
“This concept of really being strictly takeout and delivery, it makes a lot of sense during this time period and of course as, hopefully, things open up and events happen we’ll have more opportunities to cater and be involved in the community in other ways as community events come back,” she said.
Initially, the Bon Air location will rely on DoorDash for deliveries. In time, Crumbl employees will take on deliveries themselves though DoorDash is expected to remain a delivery option.
Fentriss had her first taste of Crumbl during a visit with family in North Carolina.
“They were honestly the best cookies I had ever eaten. Not to be hyperbolical, but they were that good,” Fentriss said. “I knew they would be a great product to bring to Richmond.”
Fentriss is a stay-at-home mom with two sons, though she worked as a preschool teacher prior to the pandemic. She said that as her kids are more grown up, she felt inspired to launch a business that might prove a benefit to them and the wider community.
“I had gotten into education because it fit my life at the time. But as my family changes, (my sons are) going to want their own jobs in the coming years and I think I wanted to create a place I felt comfortable employing my kids and other kids in my community,” Fentriss said. “I wanted to make a really positive working environment for young people and just anybody in my community to work at a fun, exciting place.”
Crumbl also coming to Mechanicsville, Colonial Heights
Fentriss isn’t alone in Crumbl’s crusade to enter the Central Virginia market. Business partners Chris Cook and Anne Mellichampe plan to open a 1,200-square-foot store in Mechanicsville and another 1,400-square-foot store in Colonial Heights by the middle of June.
Both stores are expected to have 40 to 50 employees each.
“It’s a clean and crisp operation,” Mellichampe said. “It’s kind of like the Apple Store of cookies.”
Mellichampe formerly ran the Richmond region’s Little Caesars franchise. Cook currently co-owns the Little Caesars franchise in Hampton Roads. Cook approached Mellichampe about going in on a Crumbl franchise together.
“The Tri-Cities are appealing. Little Caesars always did well there. You have Fort Lee and a lot of folks rotating in and out. Mechanicsville is a nice little town, too,” Mellichampe said.
The duo’s Mechanicsville location will be at 7316 Bell Creek Road in the Hanover Square Shopping Center.
The Colonial Heights location will be at 707 South Park Blvd. Suite 4 in the Dimmock Square shopping center, which is anchored by a Target.
Like Fentriss, Cook and Mellichampe were optimistic about the concept’s ability to thrive both during the pandemic and post-pandemic.
“The past year has been strong for the brand in terms of store growth and to my knowledge franchisees have done well,” Cook said.
The chain was founded in 2017 and now has more than 150 stores in 30 states. A company spokeswoman declined to share the cost to purchase a franchise.
Cook and Mellichampe also plan to open another store in Glen Allen in the late summer, though they haven’t signed a lease on a space yet. Fentriss likewise has expansion plans, and expects to open another location south of the James River.
Cook and Mellichampe plan to do both Doordash and in-house delivery service at their locations.
Another new-to-market sweets chain, frozen dessert shop Vampire Penguin, recently opened in Town Center at Twin Hickory.