Eskimo Hut Looks to Heat Up Other States

AMARILLO, Texas -- Eskimo Hut may have started out as a drive-thru store where customers could purchase frozen wine-based daiquiris, known as Eskimo Snow, without ever leaving their cars. But that was then; and this is now, CEO Kevin Morgan and Vice President of Business Development Brian Dobbins told CSNews Online in a recent interview.

As the business has evolved, so has the concept. The retailer now bills itself as a drive-thru convenience store with frozen daiquiris, and has expanded past its birthplace of Amarillo, Texas. The plan, which has been on the drawing board for at least a year, is to bring Eskimo Hut to more communities -- not just in Texas but beyond the state's borders as well, Dobbins explained.

On the Texas front, Eskimo Hut purchased two pieces of property, one in Bryan and the other in Victoria, to help move its growth plans forward. However, as the company began redevelopment of the Bryan site, it realized the property would not work because of the egress and regress. Eskimo Hut still holds title to the property, but has decided to lease it, he added.

Plans are still a go to open a company-owned store in Victoria, with the redevelopment work currently underway. There was some thought given to branching out into foodservice at the Victoria store, possibly something on a small scale like burritos or hamburgers. Check-cashing was another option for the store. But in the end, the space would not allow it, Dobbins said.

However, a new franchise location in Houston does have foodservice -- pizza and chicken -- because Eskimo Hut built out in an existing Valero site. "It is the first one we did like that and we may do more if there is interest," he added.

Expanding to other states has been a recurring goal of the Morgan-Dobbins team. A couple of months ago, the two traveled to Florida to meet with a group interested in opening Eskimo Hut stores in Orlando. They are also exploring bringing the company's c-store concept to Fort Lauderdale. Before either of those plans can get the green light, the company is reworking its franchise agreement to be applicable to the United States as a whole, Dobbins said.

"We are in the process of redoing our franchise agreement so we can franchise out of state, and it looks like Florida will be the next state we go into," he said, adding the move may not happen this year but looks good for 2012.

"I always tell Kevin that if we're not growing, we're dying," Dobbins said, but growing in its home state is still a focal point for Eskimo Hut. "Texas is just so big. There are so many places that we aren’t in yet and so many other places where we can add a second or third store."

"Kevin concentrates on Texas and I concentrate on out of state," he added. "We are taking the company in two different directions but at the same speed."