Neighbors is the co-owner of Yogurt Beach. The frozen yogurt dessert shop has three locations in the Sparks-Reno area, including one in Spanish Springs at the Sparks crossing shopping center. Yogurt Beach has been a hit with Sparks residents since it opened its doors in February of 2011.
“We looked for growth and new retail which creates good traffic flow,” Neighbors said. “It appeared to us after driving this Reno-area market completely that Sparks was an underserved market. So that was our design point, and within that the chance to pick up space and good rent. But in the end, we wanted to be here and the Sparks location is definitely our strongest store of the three that we own.”
Neighbors added that the decision to open the Sparks/Spanish Springs store has paid off, not only in sales, but also in gratitude from customers in the community.
“We have really made in-roads with the Sparks/Spanish Springs community. One of the ways we drive traffic during off hours is to partner with youth sports teams and schools and given them a portion of the profits to bring in their groups. We’ve really hit it off well with schools, several charitable organizations, youth sports leagues. They’ve really taken to it.
“Overall, Sparks has the strongest community feel to all of our stores. Sparks is very appreciative of us. I think Sparks feels a little underserved. In conversations with other businesses in Sparks Crossing, many of us are well received and having good success because of the people in the community. We’ve gotten a lot of repeat business.”
Neighbors worked in commercial real estate for 20 years and was moving to the Truckee Meadows after working abroad. His brother-in-law business partner had been a long-time frozen dessert proprietor in California, but was moving out of the Bay Area, looking for a lifestyle change. A few years ago they began to collaborate and through the frozen yogurt business would be good for Sparks and Reno.
That’s when they began to do their market research. They studied what worked and what didn’t work for many ice cream shops throughout the West. They began brainstormed and stockpiled ideas. What they came up with was Yogurt Beach.
“We created Yogurt Beach from scratch,” Neighbors said. “We saw the pitfalls and benefits of chains and then we came up with this. Yogurt Beach has the underlying idea that we provide customers with a 10-minute vacation. You can go into a store, watch the videos, hear the music eat some yogurt and just get away, enjoy your 10 minutes of beach time.”
While the response from the community has been superb and sales are good in a challenging economic environment, Neighbors says there are still challenges to running a business in the local market.
“Honestly, the biggest challenge we have in Reno, Nevada is getting the product from the Oakland Bay Area in the winter months. That commute over I-80 can have an effect. We can’t store several weeks of product. If we ever lose a shipment, we’ll have to shuffle between stores. That’s the tough part. People are very understanding of those issues, but when they don’t get their coffee or ice cream or yogurt in time, they can get a little frustrated.”
All in all, there’s been relatively little to complain for Neighbors in the Yogurt Beach business. He likes providing jobs to many first-time workers in the area. He likes running a profitable business and he loves an appreciative community.
“The No. 1 response we get is thanks for coming here.” he said. “And then in a nutshell, the other comment we get is ‘you guys are so much better than the other guy.’ The reception we’ve gotten has been great. In our Reno locations, I think the people kind of expected us to be there. The folks in Sparks have given us that welcome-to-the-community feeling that we didn’t necessarily get in the other communities.
“That hill (between Reno and the Spanish Springs valley) means a lot. People don’t go over it as much as others would like, but that’s why we came to Sparks. There are a lot of good people on that side of the hill.”