Originally created 03/03/00

Retailers put hope in new strip mall



The tenants of a future strip mall being built adjacent to Augusta Exchange shopping center say their businesses' futures look particularly bright in the neon shadow of the Regal 20 Cinema.

The new Agerton Center shopping strip is going up directly across the street from the recently opened 20-screen movie theater.

A ground-breaking ceremony was held at the site Thursday morning, amid dirt mounds and rumbling construction equipment. Representatives from five of Agerton Center's eight future stores attended.

Among those who have signed on to occupy the new center are Planet Smoothie frozen fruit drink shop, Limelite Cafe, Just Beds Sleep Gallery, Roma's Pizza and Brewster's Ice Cream & Frozen Yogurt shop.

"Look at this location," said Richard Hurt, the local owner of Anything Audio home theater and audio store. "We've been looking two years for a new building at a bunch of different places. But we couldn't have found a better location than this."

His only store is currently located on Washington Road behind the California Dreaming restaurant. He has already signed a lease with Agerton Center's property manager -- Prime Commercial Properties -- and plans to relocate as soon as the new building is completed.

The 20,000-square-foot center is being developed by Centurion Development Corp. out of Charlotte, N.C., and the general contractor for the project is Mark Capers & Associates.

Mr. Hurt's new store will be about 1,500 square-feet bigger than his shop on Washington Road. And he expects traffic to increase significantly because of the consumer draw of the Regal 20 theater.

Mr. Hurt's business plan shares a familiar theme with other tenants of the future center.

Limelite Cafe, Roma's Pizza and Just Beds all have stores in the Augusta West shopping center off Wrightsboro Road, but their Agerton Center shops will be bigger.

Roma's owner Damiano Esposito plans to keep his restaurant at the Augusta West center, making Agerton Center his restaurant's second location. Limelite Cafe and Just Beds still are debating the decision to occupy both centers simultaneously.

"We don't want to leave (Augusta West), but we're working on what we'll do," said David Greenfield, owner of Limelite Cafe.

The Augusta West movie theater has been a huge driver of business for both Roma's and Limelite Cafe, the restaurateurs said. And they expect the popularity of the Regal 20 to create similar, if not better, results.

"This is the best act in town," Mr. Greenfield said.

Reach Heidi Coryell at (706) 823-3215.