The Sunset Avenue-Wesleyan Boulevard intersection is booming with construction of future businesses.
The northeast side of the intersection is going to be the scene of three restaurants and a veterinary clinic.
The wooden frame for a future Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen now is up by the Sunset Avenue entrance to Sam’s Club, while next door, the exterior of a future Panera Bread building now is enclosed.
Next to Panera, crews have put up waterproof protection around a future Banfield Pet Hospital. Next to the future Banfield, crews also have put up waterproof protection around a future Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers.
Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Farris is elated, telling the Telegram, “Activity breeds activity.”
“We’re getting more and more inquiries all the time about different sites in Rocky Mount,” Farris said.
Farris said he believes the recent development at Sunset and Wesleyan can in part be traced to the commitment by businesses and industries to expand or build new facilities in the Twin Counties.
They include Corning having a future distribution facility and Triangle Tire having a future manufacturing facility, both between Rocky Mount and Tarboro, and CSX having an intermodal facility across from N.C. Wesleyan College.
Rocky Mount also scored both an economic development and public relations coup by securing state approval to shift the state Division of Motor Vehicles headquarters. Plans are to relocate the DMV from Raleigh to the former Hardee’s Food Systems building.
The Sunset and Wesleyan interchange already is boosted by a new Sunset viaduct over Wesleyan. The state Transportation Department also is working to improve Wesleyan from May Drive to Benvenue Road.
Farris also is quick to state he believes another factor in the progress at Sunset and Wesleyan is Raleigh-based Capital Broadcasting’s commitment to the Rocky Mount Mills commercial and residential development. Rocky Mount Mills is just a couple of miles’ drive from the Sunset and Wesleyan interchange.
“That helps make your decision to locate here, I think, a little more comfortable,” Farris said. “We’ve got so many good reasons now to consider locating in Rocky Mount.”
At the construction sites at Sunset and Wesleyan, Charles Childs is superintendent for Florida-based Bay to Bay Properties, which is the contractor for the future Panera.
Childs told the Telegram that due to the recent rainy weather, his crews are about five days behind schedule at the future Panera site.
Still, Childs said the plan is for the future Panera to be able to begin serving its first customers by mid-November.
Childs said the positive is that the future Panera building has been enclosed and that crews are working to get the storefront ready.
As for such construction going on, he said with a smile and a laugh, “It’s kind of nice to have neighbors.
“We help each other out and we get more and more done,” he said.
Childs has years of experience in the construction business and noted he has been involved in the construction of Walmarts from Florida to North Dakota.
Childs said in all of his years in the business, he has never seen three companies come in adjacent to one of his construction sites and begin building.
“I think it’s good for the economy,” Childs said of the effect locally. “I think it’s going to bring a lot of business and a lot of jobs.”
Panera began as a cookie store in Boston in 1980. Panera presently is based in the St. Louis area and has more than 2,300 bakery-cafés.
There is no word yet when the Popeyes and Banfield locations will open.
Attempts by the Telegram to reach spokespersons for Popeyes and Banfield were unsuccessful, but Farris said the site between the future Panera and the future Freddy’s will be a Banfield.
Popeyes was established in New Orleans in 1972 and serves mild and spicy fried chicken, chicken tenders, seafood and signature sides. Popeyes is headquartered in Miami and has about 2,700 restaurants.
Banfield was founded in Portland, Ore., in 1955. Banfield in 2007 joined the Mars Inc. family of businesses and presently has more than 1,000 hospitals across the United States and Puerto Rico.
Freddy’s was established in Wichita, Kan., in 2002 and has a throwback theme. Freddy’s serves hot dogs, sandwiches and combo meals as well as frozen custard. Freddy’s remains based in Wichita and has more than 300 restaurants.
A spokeswoman for Freddy’s relayed a statement to the Telegram from franchise owner Dave Dreiling, who said the restaurant is slated to open in mid-December.
“The number of positive responses we’ve received from guests in the area has been very encouraging and driving us to work hard on our development,” Dreiling said. “We’re sincerely looking forward to serving the Rocky Mount community.”
He expressed gratitude to be a part of the new development taking place in the area.
“There is so much growth on the horizon for this market,” he said. “Freddy’s will be a great neighbor to the surrounding businesses and residents.”