And, according to Pamela Culbertson, what better time than now to enjoy a treat to keep your spirits up?
Culbertson intends to make the best of things in the recession by offering tidbits of happiness in the form of the ice cream by one of the nation's most recognizable brands, Baskin-Robbins. She and her husband, Brad Culbertson, opened a franchise in Sparks on Prater Way and McCarran Boulevard in December, with a grand opening celebration on Jan. 15.
"We researched a lot of different franchises," she said. "When we saw Baskin-Robbins, I remembered when I was a kid. It was a feel-good thing."
The store opened at 1145 N. McCarran Blvd., Suite 115 on Dec. 16, but at the January grand opening they gave away free samples and donated $500 to the Lincoln Park Elementary School reading program.
The Culbertsons are no strangers to running a business. While Pamela was a yoga instructor and worked for a surgeon in South Lake Tahoe, Brad was in Colfax, Calif. running his own trucking business for 26 years. It was good work, Pamela said, but eventually they wanted to do something that would allow them to spend more time together.
Culbertson said her sister, a long-time Sparks resident, helped her to find the location.
"She's a real cheerleader for Sparks," she said. "She got me this location and we bought our house out here in May."
Opening a franchise is different than starting from scratch, Pamela said. It required in-depth research online and paying certain fees.
"The company tells you how much you have to pay in franchise fees, then they do background checks," she said.
The checks were extensive.
"They do a full credit history on you and do you have a criminal record," she said. "They look at your financial history. ... When you pass all that, then they say, 'Okay, look for a location.' "
Culbertson they chose Sparks because they liked the city's growth.
Once a franchisee finds a venue, they start working with a contractor to plan and construct a new building or remodel an existing one. They must also obtain a city license and work out the details of the sales tax permit.
"I had this whole list of things I had to do," she said. "I had to take a class with the health department to become certified as serving safe food."
Although the look of the store and menus must conform to corporate standards, there is flexibility in management style.
"You can run your business the way you want to, but you have to do ice cream from a certain place, from certain vendors," Culbertson said. "How you run your employees, they don't do any of that. You represent the Baskin-Robbins (franchise)."
And on top of the challenges of working with the corporation and the city for the location, the Culbertsons are opening in a time when people are pinching their wallets a little tighter.
But Pamela said the new business is helping the economy, as well.
The shop has brought some job opportunities for locals here for their front customer service and a drive-through. The Culbertsons received 150 applications and hired 12, a combination of part-time and full-time, although Culbertson said she doesn't guarantee a full 40 hours.
The Culbertsons also enlisted the help of their son, Theo Summers, who has been instrumental in managing the shop while the owners have taken training classes.
"Everybody's watching their money," Pamela said. "There has to be some level of confidence to open (a business)."
Baskin-Robbins, founded by brothers-in law Burton "Burt" Baskin and Irvine "Irv" Robbins, was a collaborative effort after running separate ice cream shops: Snowbird Ice Cream by Robbins in Glendale, Calif. and Burton's Ice Cream in Pasadena, Calif. According to www.baskinrobbins.com, the men pioneered the concept of ice cream franchising in 1948 when they had six stores that needed their own managers and oversight. By 1950, Baskin had more than 40 stores.
Finally, in 1953, Baskin and Robbins abandoned Snowbird and Burton's and with the help of an advertising agency, they rebranded themselves as Baskin-Robbins 31 Ice Cream, with "31" representing a flavor for every day of the month. The company has expanded to more than 2,800 locations in the United States and 5,800 around the world, according to its Web site.
In January 2008, Baskin-Robbins ranked No. 1 in the ice cream and frozen treat category in Entrepreneur Magazine’s Franchise 500.
As for the original founders, Baskin died in 1967 and Robbins died last year, but Culbertson said one of Robbins' expressions stuck with her in the process of starting the business.
"I read that in the 1940s when Irv Robbins started it, he said, 'We sell fun, not just ice cream.' I kind of think he had the right idea.
"We've gotta keep the smile," she said. "I read an article on the Internet stating that people who start businesses in a bad economy usually prosper and do well because they've already been at the worst of it."
Of course, the Culbertsons are not without their competition in the Sparks and Spanish Springs area. Cold Stone Creamery, Marble Slab Creamery, Dairy Queen and Tahoe Creamery all have locations in Sparks. Some specialty shops, such as Klunker's in Spanish Springs, also sell other companies' ice cream.
"I enjoy some competition," she said. "Baskin-Robbins has been in business for 62 years. Everybody knows who Baskin-Robbins is."
Asked how she might expect to do given these tough economic time, Pamela said, "People won't be going on trips to Europe, but they're not going to sacrifice treats like ice cream."
The store is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.