Cary News

Fuquay-Varina smooths way for new, expanding businesses

Fresh strawberries, Rice Krispie treats, pound cake and juice poppers are among more than 50 toppings at the newly opened Sweet Creation Frozen Yogurt’s do-it-yourself frozen treat shop.

While Sweet Creations owners put in some sweat equity, money and time into starting the family business, they did something else. They turned to Fuquay-Varina’s Ombuds Program, designed as a one-stop shop for businesses that want to operate or grow within Fuquay-Varina.

Sweet Creations was one of six businesses to go through the program during its trial phase. So the store, at 400 Broad St., was able to open in April, around the same time Fuquay-Varina officially launched the ombudsman program.

The town’s Economic Development Director Jim Seymour serves as the contact person and arranges a pre-development meeting between business owners and all relevant town departments such as police, planning and inspections. The goal is to troubleshoot and head off any potential problems.

“We want to eliminate all of the hiccups. All of the things that could go wrong,” Seymour said. “We’re trying to provide effective customer service.

Sweet Creation Frozen Yogurt co-owner Austin Bankert tried the process on his own. He had already approached two town departments about his plan to open downtown Fuquay-Varina’s first frozen yogurt shop.

He hit a roadblock. Even though his business wouldn’t have a fryer, he needed to install a grease trap. As Bankert pitched an alternative method, his permit application stalled for three weeks in the engineering department, he said.

Bankert turned to Seymour.

“Jim got involved and sped it along. Within a week we got our permit. We got that done,” Bankert said.

Seymour said it’s part of his job to serve as an advocate for businesses, both incoming and existing.

“Most businesses will tell you they don’t have the time to call department after department to figure out what they need to do,” he said. “Most companies want immediate answers to their questions.”

Sweet Creations appears to be doing well. On a recent hot spring day, a steady stream of teenagers, couples and families made their way through the frozen yogurt and topping stations.

Each day the store rotates 10 yogurts with flavors such as white chocolate macadamia or red velvet cake. Bankert said he always makes sure to stock at least one no-sugar-added flavor and two non-dairy sorbets in rotation. A majority of the store’s yogurt is non-fat or low-fat. And the fruit in the toppings bar is cut fresh.

Bankert, who lives in Willow Spring, decided to open the store with his parents, his wife and father-in law after noticing the lack of frozen yogurt places in southwestern Wake County.

“For us it’s a no-brainer,” he said. “For years we were hearing people say they wished there was something closer, and they don’t want to drive to Cary.”

He said as a parent with two children, there was no place to go as a family after a dinner night out.

Lynn Womack, of Holly Springs, found her way to the store with her son Mason, 9, and daughter Sadie, 5. Her rewards card, which gives her a free yogurt after her 10th buy, is nearly full.

“It’s on our way home from school,” said Womack, who teaches at Fuquay-Varina Middle School. “And it seems like we’re always passing by, either from school or baseball practice. It’s so hard to resist.”