ROCK HILL — It is an all too common conversation for developer Warren Norman.
Rock Hill, he is told, would be a better place if we had ...
Usually the blank is filled in with the name of a specialty retailer or restaurant one with an operation in Charlotte or other name city.
Too often, Norman already knows the answer. He has already talked with the company about coming to Rock Hill and has been told it doesnt want to cannibalize its Charlotte franchise. It is content for people to travel a few miles north, confident that they will retain their customers despite the inconvenience.
Often, Norman sees the conversation as a challenge and calls the businesses people want.
Sometimes, his calls are met with indifference, or silence as his messages are not returned. Sometimes, the response is in the future, and sometimes, the response is, what do you have to offer?
Its the last answer that interests Norman and other commercial developers in the region. That response is often the beginning of a process that take upwards of five years to complete.
On the most basic level, its the old business adage: location, location, location.
On the most sophisticated level, its about demographics, and the most important numbers are potential customers and how much they have to spend. Rock Hill and York County in recent years have scored high on both counts.
And its about neighbors. Will they complement my business or be a competitor? Often, the answer is yes to both questions. A competitor means more potential traffic.
Thats why the operators of Five Guys Burger and Fries and Buffalo Wild Wings are excited to share the same building off Dave Lyle Boulevard.
We have similar demographics, said Rick Fisher, operator of eight Five Guys in Charlotte. We both want to be the best in our class.
Being near like-minded restaurants is one of our search criteria, said Carl Cheaney, head of Buffalo Wild Wings real estate operations.
But its their neighbors across the street and behind them that convinced the two restaurants to open in Rock Hill.
Across the street is Academy Sports + Outdoors and mounds of dirt that will be replaced by a Sams Club. Behind them is Kohls department store and Hobby Lobby.
It was the opening of Kohls and Hobby Lobby in 2007 that started things, Norman said. At the time, Kohls and Hobby Lobby were the first of many new tenants east and north of the Galleria. Normans development company envisioned move than 1 million square feet of new retail space.
Then, the economy stalled, and so did talks with prospects.
It didnt stop the talks, however. Sams Club, already familiar with the market because of its Walmart operations, decided to move forward with a Rock Hill store. Sams Club is expected to open in the second or third quarter of 2013, Norman said.
Sams Club put it over for us, said Fisher, the Five Guys franchisee.
Cheaney of Buffalo Wild Wings said the amount of new retail was validation that the market is deep. If there is enough support for retail, it will support all kinds of restaurants.
The opening of the two restaurants expected by the end of the year or soon thereafter will reallocate everyones share of the dine-out dollars locally. But it will also bring more jobs and tax revenue.
It could mean a second or third Five Guys or Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in the region. Fisher said he would like to open another Five Guys within 24 to 36 months in the region.
With the opening Sams Club and Krispy Kreme slated to open by years end Norman can cross off two names on everyones bucket list for local operations.
Now, if he could only convince Red Lobster and Carrabbas Italian Grill to come to Rock Hill. Each has three locations in Mecklenburg County.
Locals want their fourth location to be in York County. The two restaurants, Norman said, are No.1 and No. 2 on most peoples must-have lists.
Don Worthington email@example.com