Robert Jarrell and Janee Pridgen

Dawn Cauthen-Thornton | May 15th, 2019
Janee Pridgen and Robert Jarrell (Photos by JLG Creative Photography)

Janee Pridgen and Robert Jarrell (Photos by JLG Creative Photography)

Who said you should only have one business, when you can put your resources and ideas together and have three? Partners in life and in livelihood, Robert Jarrell and Janee Pridgen spend their time growing their businesses and bringing joy to the community they serve. Scoop Zone, Outback Productions, and Teach Me How, keeps the couples’ heads in a daily spin but they balance each other and prosper with each endeavor.

Robert has always wanted to own a business. One day he was scrolling through Craigslist, as he likes to do regularly, and saw an ice cream truck for sale. The post reminded him of his childhood and how much ice cream trucks are loved. He realized it had been years since he’d noticed one driving through a neighborhood, so he decided to be that one. In 2009, Robert purchased the 1978 Good Humor ice cream truck from Craigslist. The truck full of cold goodness immediately gained traction by appearing at birthday parties, school field days, church events, and the like. Soon after, Robert purchased a second truck to complete his small fleet. Though the business was going well, he decided to take a break and focus on his first love, music.
A native of Greensboro, Robert attended N.C A&T State University and graduated with a music degree. In 2013, he started teaching students to play the piano out of his home, and ‘Teach Me How’ was born. When he met Janee, a sign language interpreter for Guilford County Schools working on her master’s degree in Speech Pathology, she was ready to jump in and make it a family affair.

“Janee would constantly bug me about purchasing a pushcart selling ice cream. After two years of putting it off and reading the material about it, we decided to think bigger,” Robert explains.

In the summer of 2018 they took a leap of faith at the thought of a brick and mortar ice cream shop. With a solid idea in mind and enthusiasm in their hearts, the pair hit the ground running, attempting to find a suitable location. After settling on one, they were denied, being told the business was too risky. They were discouraged, but not enough to quit searching. While on an outing with a client, Janee spotted an area that was in development in High Point, near the newly constructed baseball stadium. She called Robert and they jumped in their car to peruse the streets.

“We both already knew the High Point area, but never really looked at it for business. So, we rode around after church on a Sunday, looking for a location and saw ‘for lease’ and ‘for rent’ signs everywhere,” says Janee.

They spotted a diamond in the rough at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. and North Main Street. They quickly called the owner for a tour, collected the money to rent it, and signed a contract the next day. It was previously a barbershop which meant it needed grave remodeling. Luckily Robert’s father is a sub-contractor and knew just what to do.

“It had checkered floors, dryer connections in the back, and pipes in the floors where the sinks used to be. That all had to be changed,” Robert says.
Within a month, they had completely transformed the dusty mess into an impressive ice cream parlor with new floors, ceiling tiles, and paint. By September, Scoop Zone was ready for a soft opening to say hello to their new neighbors and share a few treats with their patrons. They still needed to do renovations to the bathroom and areas that the customers don’t see. When February rolled around and the winter season should have been wrapping up, Scoop Zone was in full swing and eager to serve. Since its grand opening, they have beefed up the menu, recently adding popcorn, cotton candy, and a small variety of beverages. A customer favorite is Janee’s own creation, the Rocket Ball. It consists of a large puff of cotton candy filled with ice cream, candy, and other goodies, then rolled into a tight ball of heaven.

“It has been a learning experience. I’ve had to just put myself out there and not be afraid to ask questions. I have to explain to a city worker that I’ve never done this before so please tell me what I need to know. Most have been very welcoming. We’ve had city council and board members come by and it’s really nice to have that support,” Janee admits. She recommends anyone thinking about starting their own business, do the same. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help. And be open-minded when others offer suggestions.

The sweets shop is her baby, as she left her full-time position with the school system and spends most of her time managing and ensuring a smooth day.

Most of Robert’s time is spent in his music studio teaching children where is middle C. He started by instructing his neighbors two children in his home in 2013. “The word got out and someone else called wanting me to teach their child and it just grew from there.”

Within a year, Robert, the music and chorus teacher at Dudley High School in Greensboro, had so many students that he needed to purchase more equipment and find a bigger space. He moved into a studio in 2014 and needed to move again in 2015 to the space he’s in currently. To add more options for the parents and students, the same year, he purchased an RV and transformed it into a mobile music studio.

“On Saturdays, parents can drop off their children for up to an hour while their parents shop or run errands,” Robert says. Currently, Robert offers group lessons, but may offer a private option in the future.

Robert’s 11 year old daughter, Zahra, is also part of the family business. “She helps us with administrative duties. So, she makes flyers, types up letters and sends emails for us. Of course she loves being in the ice cream shop,” laughs Janee. Zahra is a very active middle schooler who enjoys gymnastics, being a part of the track team at her school and playing the flute. She strives to one day own her own gym teaching skills needed to be a gymnast. Although, Robert and Janee have a busy schedule they dedicate themselves to never missing a beat in her life.

When the couple isn’t stretched between ice cream, music lessons, and Zahra, they’re delivering fun flicks to others with their latest venture, Outback Productions. “One day we were downtown and they were having a movie night with a big screen, projectors, and we loved it. Then we realized that we already had the same equipment, except the screen. We got the rest of the equipment we needed and started publicizing. And it took off. The first summer we started, in 2016, we were booked every weekend,” Robert explains. With three businesses gaining steam, Robert and Janee will be looking for additional employees.

They both admit that it’s refreshing to own businesses and set the standard for what they want. Contributing to their communities and setting examples is what they aim to do. “The entire process has been a test of our faith, but it’s all been worth it,” Janee professes.

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