Did someone say cookies? Crumbl coming to Kennewick, too

Crumbl Cookies, the Utah-based dessert juggernaut, is continuing its expansion into the Tri-Cities with plans for a Kennewick location.

Ranae and Matt Rusk of Pasco will open Crumbl Cookies at 1102 N. Columbia Center Blvd., a former GameStop location outside the Kennewick Target. The Kennewick shop is the second Tri-City outlet for Crumbl.

The first opened in March at Richland’s Vintner Plaza under a different franchisee, Kevin Hatch, a Richland elementary school teacher, and his business partner Ian Taylor of Utah.

The Rusks formed Cookies R Rusk to operate the Kennewick business.

Ranae Rusk will run the shop, which is backed by a $300,000 startup loan from the Hanford Area Economic Investment Fund (HAEIF), a public entity that invests in job-creating initiatives.

The Kennewick Crumbl will employ about 40 mostly part-time employees.

Rusk, who has three school-aged children, said the Target-adjacent location is no accident.

Crumbl caters to the same customers as Target – busy moms like her who buy cookies for their kids, for soccer games and other events.

According to the company, 80% of customers are “women with iPhones.”

“Moms love Target,” she said.

Crumbl shops serve freshly baked cookies, with six on the menu at any given time. Chilled sugar cookies and chocolate chip are staples. Four new cookies are introduced every week, from the parent company’s menu of 40 recipes.

Recent offerings included a lemon sugar cookie (with lemon icing and a lemon wedge), salted caramel cheesecake, chilled pina colada and maple cinnamon roll. Cookies sell for about $4, with bite-sized versions available and a line of cookie-oriented ice cream. Naturally, it sells milk to wash it all down.

The Rusks, who are from St. Helens, Oregon, originally encountered Crumbl in the Portland area. They loved the family-friendly business and its emphasis on local ownership.

Ranae, who took business courses at Brigham Young University Idaho and always dreamed of owning her own business, applied for and secured the Kennewick franchise.

She called herself a hands-on learner who tested herself with an Etsy-based business she ran from her home.

She and the Richland store owners  apparently had the same idea at the same time: “We need to bring this to the Tri-Cities.”

She said she’s encouraged by the strong opening in Richland and said in March that she looks forward to meeting Hatch in person.

Once she secured the franchise rights for Kennewick, she developed a business plan and shopped for startup funds to pay the franchise fee and cover the cost to lease and equip space and train employees.

She wasn’t able to secure a conventional bank loan in part because of the Covid-19 pandemic and in part because of her inexperience in running a business with employees other than herself.

She heard about HAEIF from a friend and applied for assistance.

HAEIF provides loans to government and private entities for activities that build the local economy.  Loans are sometimes above market rates, reflecting the risk of some of its investments.

It was created by the Washington Legislature and funded with fees levied on waste deposited at Hanford. Through March, it had placed $23 million in 46 loans. Of those, seven have defaulted on a loans totaling $2.9 million.

Skip Novakovich, a member of the HAEIF board, said Crumbl was an attractive investment because of the number of jobs it creates and the strong customer demand. The Richland store had lines around the building, he noted.

Rusk looked at several locations and settled on a Target-adjacent spot when GameStop moved out of a strip mall that includes Chipotle Mexican Grill.

The area is a popular destination for families, with an average household income of nearly $100,000 a year within a three-mile radius. Nearly 33,000 vehicles use Columbia Center Boulevard each day.

She expected to sign the lease in early April and to hire a contractor to convert the former video game store into a cookie bakery.

That includes installing Crumbl-approved ovens, grease traps and other gear. The work should take about four months, she said.

Crumbl Cookies was established in 2017 and has experienced strong growth through franchising. Franchise rights to most of the western U.S., including Washington state, are sold out. The company declined to comment on the Tri-City expansion.

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