ROCKINGHAM — With Richmond Plaza in the middle of a $3 million facelift, Tri City Inc. has been looking for new businesses to take over the remaining spaces.
One area that has been neglected over the years is the former courtyard beside JCPenney, and local residents Chris and Ashley Turner intend to fill that area with Twisted Treats — a frozen yogurt shop.
The new frozen treat shop will take over the building currently occupied by Lucero’s Shop and will offer Italian ice, gelato, self-serve and hand-dipped ice cream in addition to yogurt.
The Turners officially signed their lease with Tri City on Monday and hope to be open by July 1 at the latest. In the meantime, the couple has big plans for the 1,800 square-foot building and 5,000 square-foot courtyard.
“We’re gonna open the courtyard for outdoor seating as well as for live music on the weekends and a large projection screen for kids’ movie nights,” said Chris Turner.
Ashley Turner added they’ll also offer free Wi-Fi so students at Richmond Community College can stop by on their breaks and study while trying to avoid brain freeze.
“We’ll also have indoor and outdoor birthday party areas,” said Chris Turner. “This is more of a community thing than a profit thing.”
The Twisted Treats name originated from the machine that will spin up Twisted Tornadoes — similar to a Blizzard from Dairy Queen — but once the couple decided to add gelato and Italian ice, treats was added to the moniker.
There will also be at least two sugar-free options to choose from in addition to the hot and cold topping bar.
The Turners are hoping to include other locally owned small businesses with what they call the “small business loyalty program.” The idea is to come in, buy yogurt, take the receipt to current partners Merle Norman, Highway 55 or Gifts For All Season and receive a 10-15 percent discount.
Other incentives will include weekly specials such as Friday fill-your-cup, a loyalty card that can be punched to receive a free treat after purchasing nine and $1 fill-ups on Twisted Treat’s first day of business.
For Tri City Inc. CEO Neil Robinette, the idea to add a locally owned business was a no-brainer.
“Short-term, we want it to be a common space for patrons,” said Robinette. “It ties in well with eating dessert and eating outside. It’ll be a shaded area with nice landscaping.”
The new tenants are part of a renovation of the nearly 50-year-old Richmond Plaza announced last June. Work began with the Belk department store’s new façade and has now moved down to JCPenney. Modernizing the shopping center is expected to cost between $2.5 million and $3.5 million.
The courtyard that will soon be Twisted Treats has been blocked off for some time due to a lack of tenants, but at one time it was a thriving area. Robinette hopes to bring it back to its former glory days.
“We want to revitalize that area specifically to get more businesses in there,” he said. “It works well for their use and fits perfect for the space.”
He also has plans to install an iron gate to keep the courtyard secure at night but also allow passers-by to see through it. The former space behind the courtyard is being pegged by Robinette for potential office space.
In the meantime, Tri City hopes the facelift and addition of new stores will make Richmond Plaza a regional shopping destination for residents of Richmond, Anson and Scotland counties as well as Chesterfield and Marlboro counties in South Carolina. The investment may also reduce the demand among Richmond residents to shop and dine in neighboring Moore County.
The courtyard, however, is more of pet project for Robinette and is something that’s been on his mind for quite some time.
“This is one use for us that I’ve been thinking about for a while,” he said. “It’s a great complement to the plaza, and it’s something that’s not here in town. We try to be partners with all our tenants because we want them to be successful. We want to get people in Rockingham to buy in and get people from out of town to come and hopefully come back.”
Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-817-2674, follow him on Twitter @mattyharrelson and listen to him at 12:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays on G104.3 FM.