Regency has added another major new tenant as the mall continues to undergo redevelopment.
Goddard School, a chain of private preschool centers, plans to open a new location in Regency in late 2022. The company offers preschool, kindergarten, before and after school child care and more Again.
The school leased 12,000 square feet of space on the second level formerly occupied by New York & Co, across from the old JCPenney.
It is planned to enroll about 180 students and hire 25-30 teachers.
Franchisees Brandon Hudson and his wife Kendra are behind the last school in the Richmond area, and it is their first Goddard location. There are nine other Goddard locations in the Richmond area, each operated by different franchisees.
The Hudsons refused to share their investment in their location. They haven’t set the monthly tuition yet. Goddard franchisees can set their own rates, which are based on age and program of study.
Goddard’s initial franchise and support fees range from $259,000 to $267,000. The cost to open a school is $335,000 to $431,000, which includes furniture, school and marketing materials and other expenses, according to the company’s website.
Franchisees are betting on Regency in part because they believe the mall has a central location that could make it a draw for potential students. Regency further appears to be fertile ground for the concept thanks to its continued shift to mixed-use development since Rebkee and Thalhimer Realty Partners purchased most of the mall in 2015. The companies purchased the JCPenney in 2020.
“Under new ownership, they’ve done a great job of transforming this mall,” Hudson said. “They made it a family place where families can come and have fun.”
The couple were looking for a new business venture and Hudson, who is also a franchisee of five Marco’s Pizza restaurants in the Richmond area, said the corporate culture seemed to fit.
“For me, it’s all about interacting with the people in the company. Do they believe in what they are selling? Is there a passion? You can tell if people are believing or just trying to drive growth,” he said.
The Hudsons clung to Goddard as a business opportunity in part because of their own positive experience with the company. The married couple have four children, three of whom have dated Goddard and their youngest is also expected to date Goddard.
“It was something Kendra was passionate about doing and we have lived experience with Goddard and great experience with Goddard,” Hudson said.
Hudson is also executive director of Chesterfield-based mental health provider Simple Intervention, where his wife was chief financial officer until December 2020. Kendra said her mother’s career as an early childhood educator helped create interest in the creation of a school.
“I always knew I had a love for it and it came from her. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to be involved in early childhood education” , she said.
Kendra plans to own and operate the school, while Brandon will continue his role at Simple Intervention and take care of the books for Goddard. The couple founded the mental health business but sold it in 2020.
Goddard is headquartered in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. The company has more than 70,000 students aged six weeks to six years. The company has more than 570 locations in 38 states.
The Hudsons won’t be Regency’s only educational team. Henrico County Public Schools is planning an adult education center in the mall. PlayRVA, which operates the Kids Train at the Short Pump Town Center, recently expanded to Regency.
Residents have started entering the first phase of the Regency residential development, a 320-unit apartment complex on the site of the former Sears store, TRP Director Mark Slusher said in a text message the week last.