When it comes to the Richmond frozen yogurt market, Eddie Simmons knows that it’s a jungle out there.
But he’s betting that Goin’ Bananas, his new jungle-themed frozen yogurt shop on the corner of Three Chopt Road and Patterson Avenue, will stand out from the competition.
“The inside is going to resemble a tiki bar,” Simmons said. “We covered all the walls with bamboo and thatch. We just thought it would be a fun concept that appeals to all ages.”
Simmons and his wife Scheri are about three weeks away from opening the self-serve yogurt shop at 6919 Patterson Ave. They leased the 1,300-square-foot space, which used to house Bethel Cleaners, last summer.
Simmons said he invested about $250,000 in the startup.
To cut down on renovation costs, Simmons said he handled most of the construction through his firm, the Dover Company. He also owns an upholstery shop and a car wash, both on Patterson Avenue.
Before developing the Goin’ Bananas concept, Simmons said he looked into several franchises, including Richmond-based Sweet Frog. But he couldn’t reach a deal with any of the brands.
“We didn’t see the purpose of bringing another franchise into town,” Simmons said. “Sweet Frog definitely has all the right ingredients, but we wanted to try something different.”
In addition to the decor, Simmons will try to separate himself from the competition by separating the toppings bar from the pay station. He said it should cut down on wait time.
At least 11 frozen yogurt competitors operate at least 20 locations in the area. Goin’ Bananas will compete with chains that have expanded quickly in Richmond by selling franchises.
There’s four-year-old Sweet Frog, which is up to 11 locations in Richmond, including one two miles away on Libbie Avenue. Bobalicious has four Richmond area shops. Menchie’s and Crave have two each. Zinga, another shop that sells franchises opened a location at Willow Lawn.
And a TCBY franchise opened recently at 9468 W. Broad St.
Frank Galleher, a retail broker with Colliers International, helped independent shop Beriberry lease a space in Chesterfield about two years ago.
Galleher said the family-owned shop has since closed.
“The market’s mostly dominated by franchises, and Sweet Frog in particular,” Galleher said. “To compete with those, independents need to offer a high level of service. But there are still plenty of opportunities.”