Richmond’s former frozen yogurt king dishes up hot chicken concept

Derek Cha, remaining, and Mike Kim opened Hangry Joe’s Scorching Rooster at 10040 Sliding Hill Road in Ashland. (Noah Daboul photos)

A ton has occurred to Derek Cha in the 6 a long time considering that he offered Sweet Frog and it hasn’t been as clean a route as the just one he rode to getting to be Richmond’s frozen yogurt king.

He tried using and unsuccessful with another franchise strategy, a Chipotle-design and style Korean restaurant known as Zzaam.

Then arrived legal difficulties when he moved from Richmond to Northern Virginia, the place he was arrested and located responsible of a domestic battery charge and sentenced to 30 times in jail in 2019.

Now he’s back again in extra acquainted territory — building a new company in the Richmond area. This time, it is a Nashville-style warm hen joint termed Hangry Joe’s Incredibly hot Hen.

Cha and small business partner Mike Kim final thirty day period introduced the 1st of what they hope will be quite a few Hangry Joe’s locations in a renovated former Sweet Frog storefront that Cha continue to owns at 10040 Sliding Hill Street in Ashland.

“I’m psyched and I hope that it is likely to be a huge hit,” Cha said. “I’m hoping for even larger good results (than with Sweet Frog).”

Cha and Kim, who experienced a Korean barbecue cafe in Northern Virginia for pretty much 30 yrs right before closing all through the pandemic, are seeking to capitalize on what they reported is a scorching rooster craze playing out in sure towns around the U.S.

“We received into this very hot chicken business because it has been carrying out truly nicely in the Los Angeles area. There are numerous sites that have been doing amazingly effectively,” claimed Cha.

Hangry Joe’s Incredibly hot Chicken serves Nashville-fashion sizzling rooster.

They traveled to incredibly hot spots this sort of as L.A., San Francisco and Nashville, where the recipe’s origins are traced, scoping out the competitiveness and developing their own recipes.

“We made the decision to search into it and we frequented Nashville wherever it originated. We tried all of the warm rooster sandwiches in Nashville, and we expended quite a few months there to actually get a feel for the taste of this type of rooster.”

The duo went into enterprise alongside one another just after understanding each individual other for about two many years pursuing an introduction from Kim’s sister. Commencing with this to start with place, their strategy is to franchise the notion, like Cha did above time as he grew Sweet Frog to hundreds of places globally, prior to selling his stake in excess of the study course of at least two discounts.

“We resolved we could do this on our have,” Cha said. “(Kim) has a prosperity of practical experience in food items principles and I have a prosperity of knowledge in franchising. So, we decided to crew up and start out this notion in Richmond, which is a good marketplace to deliver in new principles,” Cha mentioned.

Kim and Cha invested in excess of a calendar year investigating and establishing the menu for Hangry Joe’s. A lot of this was tasting the competition’s choices and seeking recipes out of Kim’s bakery. They stated that they needed to preserve the menu uncomplicated and concentrated on the scorching hen sandwich, which has been their major vendor considering that opening in May well.

The rooster will come in five stages of warmth, ranging from basic to “Angry Warm.” This can be selected for any chicken dish on their menu, from nuggets to chicken and waffles.

Although they consider influence from Nashville rooster, Kim and Cha explained they also wished to keep some of their Korean society in their recipes with Korean-type nuggets and particular sauces.

“I imagine, and my consumers do as perfectly, that it’s the very best hen sandwich you can obtain out there,” Cha said.

It’s really hard to pass up the significant chicken on the roof of the new Hangry Joe’s Hot Hen restaurant.

Cha claimed they are doing between $5,000 and $8,000 in day-to-day sales — a array he claimed they are incredibly happy with.

Kim and Cha renovated the former Sweet Frog constructing for just below $200,000. Cha stated the project took about 90 days to comprehensive.

The firm is currently looking to extend. They are at this time negotiating a lease in Short Pump and are also hunting at the former Sugar Shack site at 1501 N. Parham Street, as properly as a few some others in the is effective.

Cha said they hope to extend the Hangry Joe’s title across the state as nicely as across Virginia. They have connections in Dallas, Texas and Georgia that they hope will guide to locations in individuals states, he said.

Cha described the launch of Hangry Joe’s as a restart of types.

In addition to the failure of Zzaam, which at a single place had 6 locations, Cha was arrested in late 2018 on a domestic battery demand for an assault on his spouse and was uncovered responsible by a Fairfax County jury in 2019. He was sentenced to 30 times in jail, but experienced presently served his time though awaiting trial.

“I experience like I was at my lowest position at that instant. The rock bottom,” Cha claimed of his legal concerns and ensuing divorce. “There’s no other way to go underneath that. It is like Hell.”

As he pondered a route to get his everyday living back on monitor, he landed on the route of launching a new business.

“I was down but not out. To bounce back was a no-brainer. The only way was up,” he said. “I’ve finished a large amount of doing exercises, a lot of wondering and praying for a new venture, and my partner and I came up with this. Genuinely, by means of the grace of God, I am back in a pretty significant way.”