Originally created 12/15/04

Business owners await boon from new office



Felton Mitchell was hopeful the new Board of Education building would mean a boost in business for Silla Caf, his Broad Street restaurant.

He even extended his hours, and began interviewing new employees so he could expand his staff.

Despite the fact that Silla Caf is across the street from the central office building, which is scheduled for dedication today, the added business has yet to come.

"We were hoping for 10 percent of the people there," Mr. Mitchell said.

Expectations were high that the new office would provide a big boost to downtown businesses, but Silla Caf is among several restaurants in the central business district that haven't experienced much of an impact.

The new office, which has housed about 200 employees for the past few months, will get a few dozen more in the new year, a school district spokeswoman said.

Kimberly Davis, the owner of The Dessert Shop Caf, said she's not surprised she hasn't seen more customers.

"In a best-case scenario, if half of the workers go out to lunch, distributed among the number of restaurants downtown, it's not going to impact all that much," Ms. Davis said.

According to a Main Street Augusta downtown business directory, there are nearly 50 places to grab a bite downtown.

If 100 workers from the new central office go out to lunch, that might boil down to two additional customers for each restaurant.

Blue Sky Kitchen doesn't see too much regular business from district employees either, but it does get a large group about once a week.

"When the building first opened over the summer, we seemed to get a good bit of business, but it's slacked off," said Terra Shepherd, the restaurant's manager.

This time of year business tends to slow anyway, she said.

But it's not business as usual for everyone.

Since the opening of the central office, many school district employees have come in for coffee or lunch at Mocha Delites, owner Dustin Cheney said.

"There are days when I look around and swear the place is full of them," he said.

Other days there might hardly be any, he said.

It's likely that the workers are trying out different places downtown to see what's available, Mr. Cheney said.

Reach Adrian Burns at (706) 823-3352 or adrian.burns@augustachronicle.com.