Regency has enrolled another sizable new tenant as the mall continues to undergo redevelopment.
The Goddard School, a chain of private early-education centers, plans to open a new location at Regency in late 2022. The company offers preschool, kindergarten, before- and after-school care and more.
The school has leased a 12,000-square-foot space on the second level formerly occupied by New York & Co, across from the former JCPenney.
It is expected to enroll about 180 students and hire 25 to 30 teachers.
Franchisees Brandon Hudson and his wife Kendra are behind the latest Richmond-area school, and it’s their first Goddard location. There are nine other Goddard locations in the Richmond region, each run by different franchisees.
The Hudsons declined to share their investment in their location. They haven’t set monthly tuition rates yet. Goddard franchisees are able to set their own rates, which are based on age and curriculum.
Goddard’s initial franchise and support fees range from $259,000 to $267,000. The cost to open a school is $335,000 to $431,000, which includes furniture, curricular and marketing materials, and other expenses, according to the company’s website.
The franchisees are betting on Regency in part because they think the mall has a central location that could make it a draw for potential students. Regency further seems fertile ground for the concept thanks to its ongoing shift to a mixed-use development since Rebkee and Thalhimer Realty Partners bought most of the mall in 2015. The companies bought the JCPenney in 2020.
“Under the new ownership, they’ve done an excellent job of transforming this mall,” Hudson said. “They have turned it into a family-friendly type of location where families can come for entertainment.”
The couple were looking for a new business venture, and Hudson, who is also the franchisee of five Marco’s Pizza locations in the Richmond area, said the corporate culture seemed a good fit.
“For me, it’s all about the interactions with folks at corporate. Do they believe in what they’re selling? Is there a passion there? You can tell if folks believe or if they’re just trying to push growth,” he said.
The Hudsons latched onto Goddard as a business opportunity in part due to their own positive experience with the company. The married couple have four children, three of whom have attended Goddard and their youngest is slated to attend Goddard as well.
“This was something Kendra was passionate about doing and we have a lived experience with Goddard and a great experience with Goddard,” Hudson said.
Hudson is also executive director of Chesterfield-based mental health provider Simple Intervention, where his wife was CFO until December 2020. Kendra said her mother’s career as an early-childhood educator helped create the interest in starting a school.
“I always knew I had a love for that and it came from her. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do but I knew I wanted to be involved in early-childhood education,” she said.
Kendra plans to be the school’s owner-operator, while Brandon will continue his role at Simple Intervention and handle books for Goddard. The couple founded the mental health business but sold it in 2020.
Goddard is headquartered in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. The company has more than 70,000 students who range from six weeks to 6 years old. The company has more than 570 locations in 38 states.
The Hudsons won’t be the only education outfit at Regency. Henrico County Public Schools is planning an adult-education center at the mall. PlayRVA, which operates the kids train at Short Pump Town Center, recently expanded to Regency.
Residents have started to move into the first phase of residential development at Regency, a 320-unit apartment complex on the site of the former Sears store, TRP principal Mark Slusher said in a text message last week.