Scuttlebiz: Mall food court is on a ‘roll’

The Bon is back.

 

Cinnabon, the iconic maker of gigantic cinnamon rolls, will return to the Augusta Mall food court this spring after a multi-year hiatus.

The franchise owners bringing back the ooey-gooey and oh-so-goodie bakery – Brad and Elizabeth Lindborg – also are bringing a Planet Smoothie along with it. They plan to co-locate the brands with their Auntie Anne’s pretzel shop in an expanded storefront on the Sears side of the food court.

The Savannah couple’s Lighthearted Inc. also operates food court franchises at malls in Savannah and Columbia.

Mr. Lindborg said their pretzel customers in Augusta were constantly lamenting the absence of Cinnabon.

“After a while, I caught on,” Brad joked.

Mall General Manager Amy Dalton said she was thrilled by the development because she’s “asked for a Cinnabon since arriving” last year to take over operations at the General Growth Properties-owned retail center on Wrightsboro Road.

“We are really excited,” she said of the bakery, which is a staple at malls and airports nationwide.

The Lindborgs decided to expand their Auntie Anne’s space to nearly 1,400 square feet. The Auntie and Cinnabon chain are both owned by Atlanta-based Focus Brands. Arizona-based Planet Smoothie, the nation’s third-largest smoothie chain, will also be new to Augusta.

The smoothie shop – part of Kahala Brands, which also owns Blimpie and Cold Stone Creamery – will provide the third fruit-based drink option at the food court, after Orange Julius and Fresh O’Blendz.

Auntie Anne’s last day of operation before the renovation starts is March 18, which, incidentally, is 23 years to the day after the Lindborgs opened the franchise.

Construction is expected to begin April 1 and the completed by mid- to late June.

“Certainly in time for the Fourth of July,” Brad said.

Though changing retail trends have slowed traffic at shopping malls nationwide, the restaurateur said Augusta Mall – which is still the city’s largest shopping center after nearly 40 years – has been holding its own.

“I’m doing this because that mall continues to have great traffic,” he said. “Having good local management makes all the difference.”

 

SPEAKING OF MANAGEMENT CHANGES: You may have seen a report from our Buzz on Biz affiliate about some changes coming to the Top Notch Car Wash chain. If you didn’t, here’s the deal: After 26 years in business together, owners Donald Cawley and Doug Millar have parted ways and are rebranding their three locations.

Cawley’s car wash at 3853 Washington Road in Martinez is now known as Rock ‘N Wash Auto Spa; Millar’s car washes at 512 N. Belair Road in Evans and 2841 Washington Road in Augusta will become Tidal Wave Auto Spas in about a month.

If these auto cleaneries are your destinations of choice, you’ll want to know the Tidal Wave locations are undergoing extensive renovations that will close the Augusta car wash all of this month and the Evans location all of next month. Full-service washes will be going away at both.

If you have Top Notch gift cards, they’ll only be honored at the two Tidal Waves through the end of the year.

 

RETAIL RADAR SCREEN: This past week the Downtown Development Authority voted to renew its contract with its Atlanta-based Retail Strategies LLC, the firm that helps the authority with its, well, retail strategies.

Based on the most recent report to the authority’s board, the firm has been assisting undisclosed retailers with research on properties throughout the central business district.

Downtown property owner Rafik Bassali and VanderMorgan Realty’s Andy Ackerman, in particular, are negotiating with a Chicago-based pizza chain interested in space on the 800 block.

The authority is pitching space formerly occupied by Cambridge College behind the SunTrust Building to brew pub operators on behalf of the mid-rise building’s new owner, Broad &Eleventh Street LLC, a McKnight Properties-affiliated company.

Authority Executive Director Margaret Woodard said the group is heavily courting Columbia, S.C.-based Urban Cookhouse, a health-conscious, farmer-friendly regional chain, which Woodard characterized as being “hot on Augusta.”

 

MANY PARCELS, ONE ADDRESS: Naman Hotels, the Florence, S.C.-based franchise hotel operator that acquired multiple downtown parcels on the 1100 block during the past several months for its newest hotel project, now has a single address for the 1½ acres: 1140 Broad St.

The company has been mum on the hotel it plans build on the site, which is currently occupied by the former Sky City department store and a few other buildings. It’s safe to say the company won’t develop the hotel as a Holiday Inn Express or a Hyatt, since Broad Street already has one of the former (at 444 Broad St.) and is soon to have the latter (at 1268 Broad St.).

 

DON’T FORGET THE DEPOT…: The authority also is marketing 6 acres of city-owned riverfront property at 511 Reynolds St. through an intergovernmental agreement with the Augusta Commission. According to Woodard, the project is in the “financing stages.”

An announcement detailing the undisclosed developer’s plans for the former train depot property is expected in May.

 

YOU SAY GOODBYE, I SAY HELLO: The city’s other economic development agency, the Development Authority of Richmond County, has gone through some pretty significant personnel changes in recent days.

Significant as in the departure of half its staff.

Scott Poag, the authority’s former project manager, left to take an Augusta-based job as business development director for Williams and Associates, an engineering and consulting firm in Athens, Ga. Jonathan Davis, the development authority’s’ former point man for existing industry, starts with the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce as director of workforce development March 20.

That leaves Executive Director Walter Spouse and Operations Manager Laurie Davis as the agency’s paid staff.

Hardly anything was said about the two recent resignations during the authority’s meeting this past week, but given the length of the board’s closed-door meeting, the topic surely came up in the “executive session” as a personnel matter. Regardless, no action was taken after the private confab.

Also this past week, the authority said goodbye to longtime board member and Augusta restaurateur Michael Schepis. The owner of The Pizza Joint and co-owner of Oliviana has been on the board since 2001. Authority Chairman Henry Ingram welcomed Bill Hollingsworth, owner of Hollingsworth Appraisal Co., as Schepis’ replacement on the board.

 

OTHER LINEUP CHANGES: Local radio personalities Fattz and Cher will get to sleep in a little later. The iHeartMedia Inc. Augusta radio station cluster announced The Fattz and Cher Morning Show has been moved from the 6-10 a.m. time slot on weekdays to 3-7 p.m. on 96.3 Kiss FM, the company’s “old school” and contemporary R&B station.

The duo’s old time slot will be occupied by the syndicated The Steve Harvey Morning Show on Kiss FM by the New York-based The Breakfast Club morning program on iHeart’s Power 107.7, a contemporary hip-hop station.

“We’ve noticed growth trends for both Power 107 and 96.3 Kiss FM’s audiences, and this is an exciting change for both brands,” Ivy Elam, market president for iHeartMedia Augusta, said in a statement on the programming changes.

 

THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT!: Spectra, the management company for the Augusta Entertainment Complex, which includes the James Brown Arena and Bell Auditorium, announced a second year of record-setting revenue at the facilities as well as its designation as Small Venue of the Year by parent company Comcast Spectacor.

Spectra said it lowered operating costs for the third consecutive year during the 2016-17 fiscal year and hosted 129 events, a 34 percent increase from the previous year.

It also said industry trade publication Venues Today ranked the Bell Auditorium as the No. 5 venue in Georgia for gross ticket sales in 2016.

 

ON THE MARKET: A venue of another kind is on the market at 2807 Wylds Road. The 100,000-square-foot building behind the Augusta Mall comes with two long-term tenants, call center Teleperformance USA and Virginia College.

The college, by the way, is having a free “Spring Fling” event March 22 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. In addition to free food and promotional giveaways, the college will offer program-related tours and demonstrations as well as a “Survival Job Fair” for students.

So if you’re looking for a discount pedicure from the cosmetology program or a health-screening from medical-assistant students, feel free to drop by. When you’re done, you can head across the street to Augusta Mall for a cinnamon roll and a smoothie.

 

IT’S BAAAACK…: In case you overlooked it, Columbia County placed a 68-word legal ad a couple of weeks ago in the Columbia County News-Times proclaiming its intent to introduce legislation this year enabling it to exercise the state’s “Redevelopment Powers Law.”

You might not know from reading the ad, but it’s the kickstarter for the county’s second attempt to implement tax allocation districts, or “TADs,” which are economic development tools that enables the government to freeze property taxes in a specified area and put any valuation increases toward infrastructure improvements within the boundaries.

Many other counties have redevelopment powers, including Richmond County, which used TADs to incentivize the $172 million Huntsman Pigments and Additives plant in South Augusta and lure Costco and Cabela’s stores to the Village at Riverwatch development.

In South Carolina the incentive is known as “tax increment financing,” or a TIF. North Augusta is using it to develop the Project Jackson riverfront baseball complex.

Columbia County, obviously, wants a TAD in its toolbox. But county residents rejected the idea in 2007 when it was put to a countywide referendum vote.

So once the local delegation gets TAD legislation passed, it will be put before voters during the next countywide election in 2018.

TADs have their supporters and their critics, so expect a lot of PR campaigning around this time next year.

 

Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3352 or damon.cline@augustachronicle.com

 

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