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New restaurants to open in city

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The undeveloped out parcels on the perimeter of Sam’s Club on Wednesday as seen from Sunset Avenue.

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BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff Writer

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Three restaurant chains have plans on file with Rocky Mount city officials stating they want to build locations on the northeast side of the Wesleyan Boulevard-Sunset Avenue interchange.

Representatives of Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers, Panera Bread and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen have submitted their documents to City Hall.

The documents show all three chains want to build on the grassy part of the interchange by Sam's Club at the site of the former Tarrytown Mall.

Jessie Nunery, a spokesman for the city, said the plans submitted by Freddy's, Panera and Popeyes have been approved by city inspectors and are awaiting final approval by the city’s Development Review Committee for minor corrections.

The committee is comprised of a variety of city department officials and officials from outside agencies.

Nunery said once all approvals are made and the building permits are issued, the three chains are going to have the go-ahead to begin construction.

Freddy's franchise owner Dave Dreiling, in prepared remarks, was quick to state why he plans to be opening for business in the city and at the interchange.

“The family-friendly atmosphere in Rocky Mount, as well as the close proximity to many different retail businesses and restaurants on Wesleyan Boulevard, makes the area a great next stop for Freddy’s,” Dreiling said.

Freddy's was established in Wichita, Kan., in 2002. Freddy's serves hot dogs, sandwiches, steakburgers and combo meals as well as custards, ice cream and sundaes.

Freddy's has 342 locations company-wide. Freddy's has 10 locations in North Carolina, with an 11th one set to open later this summer in Charlotte.

Of the three chains, Popeyes has been in business the longest.

Popeyes was established in New Orleans in 1972 and serves mild and spicy fried chicken, chicken tenders and seafood as well as south Louisiana-inspired side dishes.

In August, news reports said Popeyes, at the time based in Atlanta, was relocating its headquarters to Miami, joining sister company Burger King, which also is headquartered in Miami. Those reports at the time said Popeyes had 2,975 restaurants.

Panera began as a cookie store in Boston in 1980. Panera is based in the St. Louis area and has more than 2,300 bakery-cafés.

Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Farris said he is elated about the plans of Freddy’s, Panera and Popeyes because the city lacks those brands of restaurants.

“And they’re all popular chains and they all bring something a little bit different to our area,” Farris said.

Additionally, Farris said he believes the junction of Wesleyan and Sunset, at least as far back as the days of Tarrytown Mall, has been one of the best locations in eastern North Carolina.

“The traffic continues to grow and it’s a great area,” Farris said. “And so they’ve chosen, I think, three great locations.”

State Transportation data shows the average daily vehicle count at 20,000 on Sunset northwest of Wesleyan and at 34,000 on Wesleyan northeast of Sunset.

Farris also credited Alan Matthews, the Chamber’s economic development director, with being instrumental in working with Freddy's, Panera and Popeyes.

Farris noted Matthews had been working with Panera for probably a couple of years.

Documents on file at City Hall show what Freddy’s, Panera and Popeyes want to have at the Wesleyan/Sunset interchange.

Freddy's is proposing to construct a 2,925-square-foot building that would seat 79 people.

Panera is proposing to construct a 3,107-square-foot building that would seat 78 people inside and 20 people outside.

Popeyes is proposing to construct a 2,145-square-foot building that would seat 44 people.

Attempts to obtain comment from representatives of Panera and Popeyes were unsuccessful.

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