A downtown frozen yogurt shop has closed amid a number of challenges.
Froyo Earth shut down its store at the corner of Division Street and Second Avenue because of obstacles posed by parking, traffic and people who congregated in and around its retail strip, according to the company’s owner.
“There are challenges to doing business anywhere, and not to be too surface level, downtown is no different,” owner Josh Emrey said. “We really spent this season looking at what creates the best experience for our customers.”
For Froyo Earth, a better experience was available at its nearby location on East Boone Avenue, not far from the Gonzaga University campus. It offers an additional selection of products, smoothies and an espresso bar serving Wake Up Call coffee.
The small chain also has locations in Cheney, Spokane Valley, Wandermere, Wenatchee and Chelan.
“We found that our Gonzaga location was so close by and was much better set to serve our customers,” Emrey said. “With it being so close by, it was a much more inviting and better experience.”
Froyo Earth is searching for a new location but not necessarily downtown, said Emrey, who took ownership of Froyo Earth in April.
The shopping plaza at 172 S. Division St. is near several permanent housing projects and the House of Charity homeless shelter. People often congregate at the shelter.
“I don’t think there’s any surprise at that location that the homeless population around that property certainly makes it a different challenge than some of our other locations have, but it is something that we knew going into it and we were actually amped up to see what kind of an impact we could make,” Emrey said.
Froyo Earth worked with the adjacent Starbucks to “make it more inviting, comfortable and safe,” but “ultimately we learned a lot of that is just not within our control,” Emrey said.
In Facebook and Instagram posts announcing the store’s closure on Wednesday, the store did not directly address the issue of homelessness and people congregating near the store.
“Our aim at Froyo Earth is always to provide the best customer experience possible, and while our downtown location has served us well for years, we have decided to relocate,” the post states.
Steve Kraft, who formerly owned the yogurt store and is still part-owner of the building at Division and Second, expressed concern about finding a new tenant for the space.
“People feel uncomfortable,” he said.
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