05 January 2017
In two weeks, local business owner Rhon Williams will either pack up the contents of Frost Bites, Fluvanna’s frozen yogurt shop, or sport a pair of swim trunks and sit in a pool of frozen yogurt so hometown heroes can turn him into a human sundae.
Williams says he will wear his “sundae best” if he can raise $50,000 through an independent fundraiser set up to spare Frost Bites from having to close. “I see this as the opportunity to say, ‘Yes, we appreciate businesses that are in our community and we are going to step in and do what it takes to keep them,’” he said.
The former U.S. Air Force technical sergeant came to Fluvanna several years ago after serving his country through several operations including Just Cause, Desert Shield and Desert Storm because “housing was affordable and Fluvanna is great place. We love the lake and we wanted to raise our kids here – so we did.”
He built Domino’s Pizza when very little else was around the lake community and was able to support various programs through sponsorships and donations.
“When I opened up Domino’s out here, [Fluvanna residents] would have given you 15 chances to get it right because they wanted to see business succeed,” he said.
But only about half of small businesses in the U.S. can survive five years or more. Williams said he understands why it has become difficult to count on the survival of the county’s small businesses like Frost Bites.
“The misconception is it’s hard for businesses because the rent here is too high. Commercial real estate, the rates we pay in Fluvanna, are reasonable,” he said. “They’re cheaper than anywhere else. I think this is a very reasonable rent.”
Then what does Williams estimate is wrong? “The fallacy is this self-fulfilling prophecy because if you can’t trust [the business], and you don’t go support it, it will indeed close,” he said. “There are a few things we wish we’d done differently.”
When he opened a frozen yogurt and ice cream shop two years ago, “I had researched and tried to figure out what Lake Monticello and Fluvanna didn’t have. I saw people who I know live in Fluvanna at Bloop and thought this would be a great idea,” he said.
He spent several months doing research; however, Williams said he chose to open the place a little too soon. “We had enough money to get [the business] open, just not enough money to go 100 percent full throttle...and we were plagued by some problems such as machines breaking down,” he said.
With grown children in college, Williams is the pastor of Slate Hill Baptist Church. He also drives a county school bus to support Frost Bites because, based on its promising first year, he believes in its ability to succeed. He has put everything he has in it and is now going to fold himself up to fit inside a kiddie pool and allow himself to get covered in everything from chocolate sauce to sprinkles just to prove he’ll do whatever it takes to keep the store open.
With the fundraising campaign, “Together we’re going to show that we want Frost Bites to stay open by freeing up the money that’s going to the bare minimums that has to be paid,” he said. The $50,000 “gets us to the height of summer and to the end of the lease,” he said – relief that will give Williams’s business the opportunity to overcome its second year bumps.
The campaign to save Frost Bites can be found online at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/save-frostbites#/
Tiered rewards of frozen treats, gift cards, wearables, and other merchandise await donors. And if the $50,000 goal is met, those who contribute to the campaign will turn Williams into a human sundae.