SPAGnVOLA, located at 360 Main Street, is looking to expand later this year, possibly as soon as May or June. The gourmet chocolate shop, which also serves gelato and espresso drinks, has been at its current location for two years, and owner Eric Reid said the business is ready for a second Gaithersburg boutique.
“[At our current location,] we are not really tapping into the majority of the Gaithersburg demographics,” said Reid. “We really want to expand to the other side of [Route] 355.”
He said while Kentlands was the perfect area to begin a small new business, he believes Main Street “has its challenges with attraction” and he believes an expansion would grant SPAGnVOLA more exposure.
“We have the best chocolate in Gaithersburg; the best chocolate in the metro area!” stressed Reid. “But there is only so much advertising can do. [We] need to get out there.”
He said the company will have a more concrete idea about the location of the second SPAGnVOLA toward the end of March.
Due to the down economy, Reid said the company will aim to build its new chocolate boutique in a more organic way, carefully avoiding large debt and numerous bank loans. As was done with the Main Street SPAGnVOLA, Reid said the company plans to “cherry-pick contractors who do quality work for a reasonable price” in order to meet their goal.
If the second location thrives, Reid is also considering a location within BWI airport and a joint venture in Bethesda, Md. That additional expansion will depend upon the further success of the Kentlands SPAGnVOLA as well as the new Gaithersburg location.
Popular within the community, SPAGnVOLA has also garnered a reputation throughout the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area as a destination of sorts. While 80 percent of the store’s revenue comes from gourmet chocolate sales, Reid chalks the “destination” status up to the free factory tours the shop offers, as well as chocolate making classes, parties and corporate events. SPAGnVOLA has attracted tourists from New Jersey, New York and even Canada, he said.
“We schedule public tours on weekends but do private tours during the week,” said Reid. The weekday tours are done mostly for school groups, while the public tours on the weekends serve as a way to bring in new customers.
The core of SPAGnVOLA’s steady growth and success over the last two years primarily has three components: quality of service, quality of products, and the social aspect (aka the tours/parties/corporate teambuilding events). And chocolate is undoubtedly the biggest seller. Reid estimated that only about 15 percent of sales come from gelato, 5 percent from espresso drinks.
Despite the company’s desire to grow and expand, Reid emphasized the perfection of Kentlands as a supportive community in which to start. Reid himself is a Gaithersburg native and vowed to keep the Kentlands location as long as possible.
“We will remain in Kentlands as long as the community wants us here.”
SPAGnVOLA is an active participant in community events and charitable activities and frequently contributes items, such as a chocolate-making class for two, which organizations can auction or raffle off to earn money for their cause.
Steps for expansion are happening quickly, but Reid said everyone involved is excited for what lies ahead.
“Most people say, ‘You are crazy for starting and growing a business in this economy,’” said Reid with a smile. “But if you look at the research, chocolate always does well in a down economy. And we look forward to soon being known as the area’s very best chocolate.”
Restaurant Changes in Market Square
Qdoba, the counter-service Mexican restaurant located at the end of the Kentlands Market Square strip containing the U.S. Post Office and MyGym, has closed after less than a year in business. The space has proved difficult for that market in its past, which included a failed location of Baja Fresh, another casual Mexican eatery.
Despite Qdoba’s sudden closure, the space has already been leased to a new tenant, Bleu Pearl, which has posted its menus on the paper-covered windows of the site. The new occupant will be a jazz/raw bar, featuring not only music and raw shellfish, but also a restaurant-length menu of other seafood choices.
In addition, a new tenant is coming to the now-empty restaurant site most recently occupied by 44 Sports Bar and Grill. Olney, Md., Green Turtle partner Matt Largent plans to open Largent’s Bar and Grille in August following a full renovation of the interior, including the addition of new bathrooms on the first floor.
Watch for additional information in an upcoming issue of The Town Courier.
Whole Family Dentistry
Now open at 115 Market Street, Kentlands Dentistry and Implant Center houses several oral specialists under one roof: Dr. Rizwan Ahmad, DDS, a general dentist for adults; pediatric dentist Dr. Josephine Amigo, DMD; and Dr. James Ryan, an oral surgeon who specializes in implants and all types of oral surgery.
“Think of us as a one-stop shop for your whole family,” said Ahmad.
The office, located directly across from The Wine Harvest, first opened its doors in December, but the practice did not start seeing patients until Feb 2. The space, which has been vacant for a significant duration, once housed a Coldwell Banker Real Estate Office before being gutted and been remade into a state-of-the-art dental facility.
“The conversion took a little longer than expected,” said Ahmad, “but it was all worth it.”
Ahmad started at an adult practice for parents and teenagers at Children’s Dental Office in Olney, Md., where she also worked alongside Amigo. Ryan presently also works at Capital Center for Oral Maxillofacial Surgery in Washington, D.C.
The doctors chose Kentlands for their office because “the area is rapidly growing, filled with young families and an active senior population,” said Ahmad. “There are not any pediatric dentists close by, [so] I wanted to offer this service to [area families. This is why] I brought in a pediatric dentist with over a decade of experience to treat young children and those with special needs. It’s a great feeling to know that your whole family is in good hands.”
Ryan has lived in the Kentlands area for over five years, and all three of his children attend the local public schools. So the location was convenient, and Ryan could vouch for the positive attributes of the neighborhood.
“And I personally love how the Kentland’s area is such a closely knit, family-oriented community,” added Ahmad.
So far, Ahmad said the new practice is doing well, having retained many of the clients from his previous office. Additionally, “slowly, through word of mouth, people who live around the Kentland’s community are hearing about us,” Ahmad said. “And once the weather improves, we will be holding an open house, which will give everyone an opportunity to meet our dental family.”