Several businesses have come and gone in recent years in the small storefront between Holleman’s and Burritoville at 1 Curtiss Pkwy. Most were specialized eateries and didn’t last long enough to build up a following.
Miami Springs is a somewhat unique community in that the survival of a new business depends on focusing on a core group of local customers. The entrepreneurs who previously occupied the prime location put their hopes in tightly focused eating places and didn’t understand the dining and shopping habits of Springs residents.
The newest business, Big Rich’s Yogurt Café, opened on April 5 (the first day of the Springs River Festival) and owner Richard Bergez aims to be an exception. He graduated from Miami Springs Senior High, lives in the city and knows a lot of people in the area.
“I love Miami Springs,” Bergez said. “To me, this is the best city there is.”
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When Bergez, 28, decided to open an independent yogurt shop, he spent a month looking for the right place and deemed the Curtiss Parkway location perfect because it required minimum renovations, a major money saver when starting up.
“The counters and cabinets were here and the layout was perfect for installing the yogurt machines,” Bergez said. “Mostly, I just had to bring in furniture and touch up some paint.”
Bergez decided on yogurt because it’s a popular treat and he got a taste for the frozen delight from a successful yogurt shop located near his Coral Gables tutoring business.
Richard and his brother William — both University of Miami graduates — have owned a tutoring business called Think Easy across from UM in Coral Gables for three years. Richard tutors finance, statistics, economics and accounting, and his brother specializes in science and physics.
To offer the right product, flavors and toppings, Bergez visited more than 20 yogurt shops.
“I ate more yogurt than I ever had in my life,” Bergez said. “But I wanted everything to be perfect before I opened. We were also training on Festival Friday, so it was training to the max. We were almost overwhelmed, but we didn’t want to miss the opportunity provided by the Festival.”
Presently, eight flavors are offered: chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, peanut butter, cake batter, cookies and cream, dulce de leche, and coconut. Vanilla and chocolate are fat-free and the others are low-fat. More dispensing machines with additional flavors are planned.
Customers dispense the yogurt themselves in a cup and can mix flavors if they wish and add a variety of toppings from 35 offered. Also available are dispensers with Ghirardelli dark chocolate, white chocolate and caramel. The cup is weighed at the register and the cost is 49 cents an ounce.
The shop also sells water, soft drinks, energy drinks and even bottles of Starbucks coffee, along with a selection of pastries. Also being readied is a Cuban coffee machine.
Currently, Big Rich’s is open seven days a week: Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight; and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“We’ll see how it goes and make adjustments to hours, if needed,” Bergez said. “Basically, I now live here.”
Going with what has proven to be a formula for success with most longtime Springs businesses, Bergez is a working owner. He’s on site and usually behind the counter along with his girlfriend/assistant, Berioska Casado, who is a fashion design student at Miami Art Institute. Also a graphic artist, Casado designed the catchy logo for the business.
“Customers have been very welcoming and reviews of the yogurt were all positive,” Bergez said. “I plan on introducing myself to my business neighbors, passing out flyers and being part of the community. Creating awareness is the key to success.”