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What’s better than owning an ice cream shop? How about owning TWO ice cream shops?

That’s exactly the story for Joseph and Sarah Ritchey. They’re the new owners of the Redwood Plaza Baskin Robbins ice cream shop.

The couple took over the franchise after former owners were forced to close the business due to a dispute regarding franchise fees.

After being closed for several months, the ice cream shop reopened this past Thursday.

“It’s been a wonderful start,” said Joseph Ritchey, 29. Joseph Ritchey manages the store and Sarah Ritchey decorates the ice cream cakes.

The couple is new to Napa business ownership but not new to Baskin Robbins. Since 2017, they’ve owned and run a Baskin Robbins franchise in Windsor.

That business has been a success, but they did face a big challenge soon after taking ownership when the 2017 wildfires hit the area around Windsor.

Their business took a downturn but, “we mustered through it together,” he said.

2018 “was very good for us. And then 2019 has been even better.”

Ritchey credits that success to their strong emphasis on making sure both employees and customers are taken care of.

After hearing from the corporate Baskin Robbins office that the Solano Avenue Baskin Robbins franchise was available, they decided to go for it.

“It’s a great opportunity for us,” he said.

A second Baskin Robbins (and Togo’s) franchise had also closed in the south Napa Marketplace but that franchise was not available, he said.

“We’re very happy with the store and crew,” at his new location, said Ritchey.

The small business owner said he was able to rehire a number of the employees from both closed Baskin Robbins cafes.

Employees have undergone new training, he said.

One big change customers might notice is that prices are lower.

“The prior management had raised prices significantly – well beyond what I’m comfortable with. I think we can do better for the guests,” he said.

In response, “We’re reducing prices on almost everything,” — as much as 50 cents to $2 less for individual products.

Ritchey said he’s an advocate for small business ownership because it offers a chance for those who are motivated to own their own enterprise. He’s a bit of an entrepreneur, having started and sold other small retail businesses in Arcata and Lower Lake areas.

“I don’t come from a wealthy family,” he said. “Everything I’ve started I’ve started from savings and grew from nothing.”

Ritchey said he chose to be a Baskin Robbins franchise owner because it’s a family-friendly business. The couple has a daughter, Abigail, who is 4 1/2.

This new Napa business owner said one thing people might be surprised to know about Baskin Robbins is just how busy the stores are.

“We’ll have 300 or 400 people come through easily in a day. On the weekends, we can approach 1,000 people a day,” he said. “In summer, we’ll get even higher than that.”

The most popular flavors include mint chocolate chip, Oreo and a green apple, blue raspberry, and fruit punch flavored sherbet called “Wild ‘n Reckless.”

“My personal favorite is called world-class chocolate,” said Ritchey. It’s a white chocolate-flavored mousse ice cream swirled with milk chocolate flavored mousse ice cream, he explained. “It’s fantastic.”

Baskin-Robbins was founded in 1945 in Glendale, California by Burton Baskin and Irvine Robbins, ice cream enthusiasts and brothers-in-law, according to the company website.

What was once a selection of 31 flavors—Baskin-Robbins “31” stands for a different ice cream flavor for each day of the month—has grown to more than 1,300 in its flavor library.

There are more than 8,000 Baskin-Robbins locations around the world, with more than 2,500 located in the United States.

This isn’t the only recent change at Redwood Plaza. A salon, Lavender Nails and Spa, recently opened at the center. Grocery Outlet is reviewing the former Vallerga’s Market location for a potential second Grocery Outlet in Napa.

Baskin Robbins is located at 3373 Solano Ave. in Napa, 707-492-3100.

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.