When Rossalyn Nephew was on her way toward earning a business management degree from Rasmussen College in Fargo, she knew that she wanted to someday own and operate her own business. But she also knew that making her plans a reality would be an uphill battle in Fargo.
"Fargo has everything already," the 2004 Crookston High School graduate told the Times on Thursday, hours after the Crookston Housing & Economic Development Authority (CHEDA) Executive Committee unanimously approved her request for a $30,000 loan that she said is the final hurdle she needs to clear before making her Berry Burst Frozen Yogurt shop on South Broadway, in the building next to Widman's Candy, a reality this summer.
As Nephew honed her visions of entrepreneurship, she said she noticed the growing popularity of frozen yogurt. But, again, Fargo didn't seem like a realistic option. "Frozen yogurt places are opening in Fargo all over the place," she said.
But not in Crookston, the hometown that Nephew said she's always loved, and hoped to be able to return to someday.
The daughter of Willie and Linda Nephew, Rossalyn said her dad had purchased the building previously with another use in mind. But when circumstances changed, she said he was looking to sell it. "But then I said, 'dad, I have an idea,'" Rossalyn said.
At the CHEDA Executive Committee meeting Thursday, CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth didn't recommend that the committee members recommend or reject Nephew's loan request. Agassiz Federal Credit Union eventually stepped in as the primary financier after Nephew’s application was turned down by various banks, he said. Hoiseth noted that the financing is "a little thin," but the more he spoke about Nephew's plan, the more he sounded like a fan of the idea. The elder Nephew is not just Rossalyn's dad, Hoiseth said, but he has a good history with CHEDA and he not only wants to improve the main level frozen yogurt space, but also renovate the living quarters upstairs. "He says they're going to make this work," Hoiseth said. "I do believe this loan has merit; it's obviously something we don't have in town."
But maybe more importantly than that, Hoiseth said Nephew's story is what community leaders "dream of," with a local high school graduate going off and getting a college degree, and then returning home to work and live.
"This is about building a downtown presence so folks who work in that area can walk there," Hoiseth said. "This fills a storefront, creates downtown buzz, and lures people and students downtown. You want to create a cluster of activity, and Berry Burst Frozen Yogurt would help with that."
Page 2 of 2 - Nephew said she hopes to eventually add smoothies, coffees and cappuccinos. Hoiseth said he'd like her business to eventually serve a limited menu of sandwiches and soups as well, but stressed that would be up to Nephew and that it might be a bit much for her to envision at this early juncture.
The $30,000 CHEDA loan will be paid off over 10 years, at 4.25 percent interest. The money, Nephew said, will purchase predominantly kitchen equipment and equipment needed to make frozen yogurt.
The revolving loan fund the money will come from currently has a $200,000 balance that Hoiseth said CHEDA has "kind of been sitting on."
Mayor Dave Genereux said CHEDA has extended some loans with a significant amount of risk in the past, and he's willing to take a chance on Nephew's business as well. "If it helps downtown, it's a price we have to pay," he said.
"Everything's a risk nowadays," committee member Kurt Heldstab added. "I'm willing to put my yes vote on this."
Craig Morgan made the motion, and Heldstab seconded it.
Not a Cherry Berry
When it comes to frozen yogurt, most people first think of Cherry Berry. Nephew said she did as well when she decided that a frozen yogurt shop was what she was going to pursue. But the franchise fee, well into six figures, was simply impossible to consider, she said, and even by pursuing the franchise, she said she risked losing a $25,000 up-front fee she'd have to pay.
Nephew said her optimistic goal is opening by June 1, but realizes that bumps in the road will inevitably pop up. "Definitely this summer, though," she added. "I'm so excited. I love Crookston and I'm happy to be home."