Randy Stark has been in the furniture business for most of his life.
Raised in a furniture-business family, he has either owned or managed a furniture store in Colorado Springs for more than two decades.
But four months ago he said goodbye to all that and traded in his salesman’s shirt and tie for an ice cream apron.
Stark, along with his wife Mary, purchased a KaleidoScoops franchise and took over a former Baskin-Robbins store in Canon City back in October.
This May the couple will open their second KaleidoScoops location on South 8th Street near Arcturus Drive in the Cheyenne Center, a Skyway area shopping center anchored by Panino’s restaurant.
“It was just time to do something new,” said Stark. “You watch little kids come in and their eyes just get buggy because they know they are getting ice cream. It’s so cool.”
He called the retail spot at the end-cap of the north side of the center an ideal location.
“It’s really close to my house. It’s got great visibility and it’s in Skyway,” he said. “I wanted to be here because I know Skyway supports Skyway businesses. I also know the area has been hungry for an ice cream store since Baskin-Robbins closed four years ago.”
Launched during 1999 in Dallas, Texas, KaliedoScoops began as a loose affiliation of former ice cream retail franchisees that saw themselves as revolutionary business owners.
They wanted a quality product and assistance in marketing but also wanted the freedom to operate their individual establishments as they saw fit. They wanted unity without complete uniformity and individuality without isolation.
By 2001, the company had 25 franchisees. Today it touts 62 locations, spread throughout 20 states.
Despite their affiliation with KaleidoScoops, the Starks are proud of the individuality of their restaurants. With 1,000 square feet in Skyway, they’ll also offer breakfast and lunch items as well as coffee from local roaster Colorado Coffee Merchants.
“The company encourages you to do other things too, not just ice cream,” Stark said. “We have a licensing agreement with a company called “My Favorite Muffin” to sell muffins and bagels. We’ll be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day but Sunday, when we’ll probably offer shorter hours.”
The opening date is tentatively scheduled for May 1 because the space needs to be renovated.
Stark is even planning to open more locations, one in Fountain and one or two more in Pueblo.
“You can’t really make money on just one ice cream store,” he said. “But if you can pull a little money out of each store then you can make a living. I was able to find two investors to invest in these locations and my plan is to take profits from these two stores, pay off my investors in a timely manner and open up locations three, four and five.”
All told, he knows he’s taking on a considerable risk as the national and local economies recover ever so slowly from the worst recession since the 1930s.
“It scares the hell out of me, but it’s exciting,” Stark said. “One reason I chose ice cream … the recession may have kept people from going out to dinner, but I think they can still treat themselves to an ice cream.”
Scott Prater covers retail for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.