Posted April 27, 2008 05:46 pm

Who moved my (pimento) cheese?

In last week’s Scuttlebiz, I declared I was finished commenting on the Masters Tournament for the year, but that was before I heard a tidbit about a new food-service company vying for the tournament’s concession business.
It appears a Chicago-basedcatering company Levy Restau­rants is moving into the role of concession manager for Augusta National Golf Club’s tournament. For years the job belonged to a local company, Collie Concessions.
Sources* say Levy staffers from Jacksonville, Fla., where the company provides food at the Jacksonville Jaguars’ stadium, were at the tournament learning the ropes for their transition into long-term service. The company, a division of Britain’s Compass Group PLC, a $23.5 billion company, also provides food at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and American Airlines Arena in Miami.
When contacted, a Levy spokeswoman could not immediately provide details on the deal.
Augusta National, which almost never discusses club business, declined to comment.
A phone message left with Collie Concessions’ owner Alex G. Collie III was not returned.
In the grand scheme of things, there probably will be no major changes to the tournament’s time-honored (read: inexpensive and tasty) snacks, such as pimento cheese sandwiches** and $2 beers.
It doesn’t matter who Augusta National pays to dispense goodies – anyone who takes the contract is going to deliver exactly what the club wants, recipe and price included.

THE LION ROARS; WILL CONSUMERS YAWN? In case you needed one more example of why the Evans Town Center plan is a failure, here it is: Developers are planning to build a Food Lion-anchored strip mall at the corner of Washington and Belair Roads, on parcels in front of the recently built The Home Depot store.
More on Food Lion in a minute. First, I have to rant about the so-called Evans Town Center plan. As the name suggests, the plan’s goal was to turn a 1.5-mile radius centered at the Washington-Belair intersection into a traditional town center, complete with quaint boutiques, restaurants and parks. Officials specifically sought to discourage large strip malls and other generic big-box developments.
Columbia County’s then-director of planning and zoning said it was designed to “ensure a high-quality environment” in Evans.
Now, 14 years after the plan’s conception, what has become of the “town center?” Drive around the area (if you can stand the traffic) and you’ll see nothing that resembles a traditional town and everything that resembles typical suburbia: Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, The Home Depot, Dollar General and so on.
Whatever vision the plan laid out has been systematically nullified by county leaders who roll over like a kayak in rough water the moment a developer lands a commercial tenant.
That brings us to Food Lion.
The Salisbury, N.C., company is a fine, tax-paying corporate citizen but certainly not the type of “high-end” retailer that developer Blanchard and Calhoun Commercial Corp. and its partners pitched to the public when it bought the 21-acre site formerly occupied by Evans Middle School.
Based on the architectural drawings I’ve seen, the store is clearly a Food Lion, not the company’s upscale “Bloom” concept that is starting to crop up in the Carolinas.
A Food Lion spokeswoman would not comment.
There’s already a Food Lion not far from the site at the corner of Old Petersburg and Old Evans roads. Anyone want to bet on which one closes first?

NOT EXACTLY BREAKING NEWS: Some people have forgotten that The Augusta Chronicle last month reported a Cracker Barrel was going to be built at the corner of Washington and Belair roads (in the same shopping center as the aforementioned Food Lion and The Home Depot). So I just wanted to remind you: A Cracker Barrel is going to be built at Washington and Belair roads.
A side note: The location is unique in that nearly 90 percent of Cracker Barrel locations, such as the one near the Belair Road-Interstate 20 interchange, are on interstate highways.
Whether the new location will be more or less crowded than the existing one on Sunday morning remains to be seen.

A SHORT COMMUTE? Employees at the FPL Food slaughterhouse on New Savannah Road might have to drive to Lexington County (west of Columbia) if they want to stay employed with the beef-processing company.
Last week, FPL, which longtime residents remember by its former name, Shapiro Packing Co., announced it would be shifting work from Augusta to its new facility in South Carolina. About 100 jobs could be lost.
The company’s Web site says it employs about 700 people in Augusta, where it processes beef for companies such as Wal-Mart and McDonald’s.

SPEAKING OF BURGERS: A reader posted a reply to a recent Scuttlebiz that said Five Guys Burgers and Fries was coming to the Evans area. The Evans Town Center to be exact (again?).
I haven’t been able to confirm that because I’m playing the world’s longest game of phone tag with the company’s spokeswoman (Molly, call me!). The Richmond, Va.-based chain has several locations in Georgia, including two in Athens.
If it does come here, it’s likely to give the market’s other burger joints a run for their money. The company appears to have a cult following rivaled only by In-N-Out Burger, a West Coast chain that, if it located here, would be the sole recipient of my hamburger expenditures.

HISTORY LESSON: The recent bankruptcy and closing of the Friedman’s jewelry store chain would have no more resonance here than the closing of any other chain except for one thing: Friedman’s has roots here.
In 1909, Sam Segall started a jewelry store in Savannah, Ga. His nephews Abraham and Benjamin Friedman took over when he died, naming the business Friedman’s Jewelers in 1924. Abraham moved to Augusta and brought his share of the company with him. The brothers later split up their seven stores. Abraham named his A.A. Friedman. Having two companies with “Friedman” in the name didn’t pose a problem until the companies grew so large that they began to overlap.
Under a lawsuit settled in 1997, Abraham’s 137-store chain became Marks & Morgan. Benjamin’s Friedman’s Jewelers became a publicly traded company that grew to 455 stores nationwide under the Friedman’s and Cresent brand names.
Augusta-based Marks & Morgan ceased to exist in 2000 when Susan Morgan, daughter of company Chairwoman Betty Friedman (whose maiden name was Marks) sold the firm to Signet Group PLC in a deal worth $160 million.
Benjamin’s half of the business, whose liquidation is now being overseen by three national firms, is unloading $400 million worth of inventory and seeking a buyer for its remaining locations.

* “Sources” means “a banker I know who was at the course.”
** The pimento cheese is the most revered concession item, but the barbecue sandwich is the most underrated.