Along one of Prince George’s County’s busiest highways that stretches from the D.C. border into neighboring Charles County, zooming motorists can get a glance at ongoing renovations at the Shops at Iverson in Temple Hills.
Inside and outside the $30 million renovation project at the former Iverson Mall, a colorful sign blazes on the building where a Black couple plans to open Tropical Smoothie Café this month. It will become the fifth franchise opened in the county.
More importantly, owners and county natives Alesha Hicks and David Magby will open in a community considered a food desert, an area that lacks healthy food options and lack of grocery stores. This month also commemorates Hunger Action Month, which encourages people to help provide nutritious food for millions nationwide and find solutions to eradicate famine.
“We wanted to give our community something different,” Hicks said inside the store Thursday, Sept. 6. “We all lack healthier options.”
A menu of Tropical Smoothie, headquartered in Atlanta, offers “suppergreen Caesar chicken wrap,” buffalo chicken bowl and chicken apple club flatbread sandwich.
Of course, there’s smoothies made of fresh fruit such as strawberries, watermelon and bananas. The store even offers a few unique choices that include “peanut paradise” comprised of peanut butter, banana, nonfat yogurt and choice of a protein.
“Whenever we travel, we always look for a Tropical Smoothie Café,” Magby said. “We are both loyal customers.”
The couple also remain loyal to each other after reconnecting at a college homecoming following a 13-year gap. They decided to partake into a business partnership that required at least 18 months of reading, research and responsibility.
The couple received plenty of advice on what it takes to open and manage a business. Here’s some of what they learned:
•Save every penny earned.
•Establish good credit.
•Double check all paperwork.
“At times, we ate tuna fish sandwiches [for dinner],” Hicks said.
Both are in their 30s and graduates of Morgan State University in Baltimore. They use their strengths to advance the business.
Hicks received a bachelor’s degree in information technology and hones her computer skills to promote the business on social media. She also obtained a master’s degree in the same field at Bowie State University.
Magby’s bachelor’s degree in business administration and later a master’s degree in business contracting from University of Maryland University College allows him to oversee and manage the electrical, plumbing and other construction work.
The size of the storefront?
“It’s 1,636 square feet,” he said without hesitation.
“You see? He knows everything about this place,” Hicks said.
Last-minute touch-ups are still underway such as installation of fire alarms and county inspections. To complement the store’s tropical aspect, colorful portraits are hung on the walls. More than two dozen fluorescent lightbulbs will help brighten up the store along with 21 orange barstools and 20 blue chairs.
The couple plans to hire 25 people, with the majority from the Temple Hills area.
“We want to represent hope,” Magby said. “We are bringing something good to our own backyard. We dare to be different.”