REDMOND — Despite a slower-than-expected opening, Tyson Hurst said he does not regret his decision to open the first Maui Wowi Hawaiian Coffees & Smoothies franchise in Oregon.
That’s because he sees the potential for the Denver-based company’s coffee and smoothie combination to thrive as more people learn about his business.
Hurst started the franchise in Redmond’s Highland Marketplace on the west side of town near Redmond High School in November and has stayed afloat with coffee sales this winter when most people aren’t thinking about an icy, blended fruit beverage, he said.
Hurst envisions the shop becoming a popular “hangout spot” for high school students or a business gathering place that also offers free wireless Internet access, he said.
“It’s a different ambience than Central Oregon is used to seeing,” he said. “It’s not a typical coffee shop.”
With warmer weather on the way, the blended fruit smoothies are a “healthy alternative” for customers in search of an afternoon snack, Hurst said.
He ventured into the smoothie and coffee business following a short stint as Redmond High School’s band teacher, he said. Hurst still coaches the boys and girls (varsity) swim teams at the school.
“I’ve tried a bunch of different jobs, but I wanted to own my own place and be my own boss,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to express my own creative ideas.”
Being the boss means almost always being behind the counter, Hurst said. Redmond customers like seeing a locally owned company and seeing the owner every day, he said.
He pushed hard for the 20-year-old franchise, which has about 60 percent of its franchises in California, to open in Redmond, he said. Another franchise is expected to open on the west side of Bend, he said.
Most of the company’s franchises are in urban areas, he said.
“It was definitely a struggle getting them creatively to work in a small town like Redmond,” he said. “But I really pushed hard for a location close to the high school.”
Before he opened the store, Hurst did his homework, standing on the corner of Highland Avenue and 17th Street to count passing cars. He also gathered city demographic data that he submitted to the franchise for approval to open a store.
He hopes that as more shops open in the Highland Marketplace, more customers will be drawn to his store.
Q: What is your background? Why did you choose Redmond to open a Maui Wowi franchise?
A: I grew up in Salem but always had a passion for Central Oregon. I moved here to pursue teaching as a career but decided it wasn’t what I was looking for professionally. I bought a house here in Redmond and thought having the store here would be easier to keep a handle on the business as well as stay involved with the community.
Q: Why not Bend?
A: I have built a lot of relationships in the Redmond community and at the time, Redmond was less expensive to build a business compared to Bend.
Q: How difficult was it to open a franchise? What were the steps?
A: I knew I wanted to build a smoothie store. They were popular when I was in high school and still are today. I searched online for smoothie franchises and found that Maui Wowi fit me best. Having little experience in the business world made it difficult for me to negotiate to get financial backing with the local banks. I kept pushing and landed the property, which was approved by Maui Wowi, and we went from there bidding a general contractor and building out the store. City permitting and other legal documentation delayed the opening by three months, but we finally opened in mid-November.
Q: What support do you get from the corporate offices? Does that help you through slow revenue times or are you out on your own?
A: Being that Maui Wowi is a relatively small company still, there is a tight network that is easily accessible whenever help is needed. I can pick up the phone and get an answer in seconds. As for slow revenue periods, they do not help with that … except for offering helpful hints on marketing ideas.
Q: What are your future growth expectations?
A: Business can only get busier. We are building a strong base of regular customers and see new faces every day, so we remain optimistic. … (With more Highland Marketplace) suites filling up and better weather coming, we hope that more people will visit the complex and more students from the high school will come our way on their lunch break. Redmond is only getting bigger and we are the only place in town that has smoothies as our main focus (and) product. Along with that, a laid-back seating area and being locally owned, we hope the word gets out and business picks up.