Rita’s Italian Ice — a 30-year-old chain already operating in 25 states — is headed to New Mexico.
The brand also known for its custard has inked a development deal with a local franchise group that intends to open 30 locations around the state over the next eight years.
Albuquerque’s first store should open next March, though the father-son franchise team of Dave and Mark Gaulden hasn’t yet settled on the exact location, according to a spokeswoman.
From there, the plan is to open about four stores annually for the next seven years. The Gauldens intend to own and operate 14 stores in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and offer subfranchise agreements for the remaining locations.
It’s a change of pace for the Gauldens. Dave Gaulden is chairman and CEO of Albuquerque-based Julmark Technology Group, which makes corporate identity products. Son Mark serves as company president.
“I wanted to try something different since I have been in the custom paper business for over 30 years,” Dave Gaulden said in a statement to the Journal. “I saw Rita’s expanding in San Diego and other parts of California and western states and thought ‘I want to bring Rita’s amazing 30-year-old brand with its delicious cool treats and exciting products to New Mexico.'”
There are already more than 600 Rita’s locations today and plans call for adding another 85 this year.
Rita’s originated in Philadelphia in 1984. Most East Coast locations are walk-up window storefronts, while newer locations in Western states like Arizona and California typically measure about 800-900 feet, according to a spokeswoman.