Here's a scoop about some new scoops
IF you're a funky, "Chunky Monkey" junkie you will be like, totally stoked to learn that Hawaii's first Ben & Jerry's ice cream Scoop Shop will be opening at Ward Centre at the end of May. Its grand opening will follow in June.
The shop will serve Ben & Jerry's famously decadent ice creams, including the quirkily named Cherry Garcia, Phish Food and Chubby Hubby, as well as a line of frozen yogurts, sorbets, cakes, smoothies, frozen drinks and coffee drinks.
Local franchisee Ronni Tai See got the gig after successfully competing against 21 teams to win exclusive rights to Oahu and the option to expand to the neighbor islands. Scoop Shops Hawaii Inc., established in 2004 for the venture, will build five stores in five years, she said.
"We're the area developers, she said of she and her husband and partner Robert Yackley, but she's the president and day-to-day operator, with a finance degree and an MBA.
Tai See's career has included business development for the Pacific Business Center in Micronesia and financial management and planning at Pepsi.
More important to Ben & Jerry's was the intangible quality they were looking for in a franchisee.
"They liked our business philosophy," she said. "We fit into their group, rather than 'we have a bazillion dollars behind us.'"
"They don't want people to come in and run it like it's an investment," she said. "In order to exude the Ben & Jerry's feeling, you have to have it within yourself."
That includes a spirit that is philanthropic, community-dedicated and environmentally and socially concerned -- while also interested in generating revenues. It is summed up by the words, "caring capitalism" on the Ben & Jerry's Web site.
"I've met Ben and Jerry (Bennett Cohen and Jerry Greenfield)," Tai See said. "They sold to Unilever (NV in 2000), but they're still very involved."
"It's just so interesting to talk to these two guys who seem so antibusiness and yet they created this incredible empire."
Tai See had written a paper about Cohen and Greenfield in college, focusing on running an ethical business and how it can make money. Ben & Jerry's is well-known for its opposition to rBGH hormones used in the dairy industry, while its coffee partner, Green Mountain Roasters, is strict about fair-trade issues with its suppliers.
"They walk their talk," Tai See said.
That Tai See doesn't have a "bazillion dollars" behind her has been a bit challenging.
For a Scoop Shop of 650 square feet or more, the company estimates total startup costs at $256,000 to $396,000 -- but this is Hawaii and her 1,200-square-foot shop will wind up costing more than that.
She loves the Ward Centre location, next to Crazy Shirts, but observed that "real estate here is just ridiculous." The Ward location will be the mother shop, while subsequent locations, currently in negotiation, will be smaller.
The flagship is also steps away from competitor Cold Stone Creamery. "General Growth, the way they looked at it, we definitely could not have gone any closer," Tai See said.
"People are amazed at the cost of doing business in Hawaii, but almost all of the highest-grossing franchises are in Hawaii." She cited Cheesecake Factory and Baskin-Robbins as examples. "You're talking at least double the national averages, if not triple."
Even with lulls in the visitor count, Hawaii has year-round traffic to support the ice cream shop business -- which in many mainland states has to focus on "the 90 days of summer ... to sell as much ice cream as you can." Recent stormy weather notwithstanding, Hawaii generally has a weather advantage for the ice cream business.
Another venue, Scoop Shops Hawaii Inc., will use a cowmobile to sell its shivery sweets. It is a big trailer, with black-and-white cows painted all over it, that can travel to events such as the Taste of Honolulu to serve up scoops and cones and other cool treats.
Before she can do any of that, however, Tai See has to graduate from Scoop U. Learning to scoop ice cream the B&J way is not as "loosey-goosey" as one might perceive, she said. Servings are weighed, and too much or too little too often could get Tai See sent back to remedial scooping school. No kidding.
She already has learned much about the business, especially from the company's extranet, where franchisees share information. "It's awesome because we have gotten so much help from franchisees who are so willing to reach out. They know the trials and tribulations of starting a business."
She looks forward to working with the community responsive vibe of Ben & Jerry's with the company's national promotions, but also with local charities. "We're going to try to have as much fun as possible while we do this," she said.
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org