Commonwealth Journal

November 27, 2012

Texas Roadhouse, Steak ’n Shake on the way

Restaurants should open early next year in Stonegate Centre on South U.S. 27

by Chris Harris
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —  

Hungry Pulaskians look-ing for a new place to have dinner will have not one but two additional options next year, as Texas Roadhouse and Steak ‘n Shake are coming to town.
Brook Ping of Stone-brook Development announced Monday that the two popular national chain restaurants have entered into contracts to locate here in Somerset along South U.S. 27, with a target opening date next spring or summer.
The eateries would be located in the Stonegate Centre, which is just north of the longstanding Grand Central Place shopping center. The new commercial plaza has little in it currently — a Sleep Outfitters store and L&N Federal Credit Union are both there — but interest in property development in-creased after the June 26 option election allowing the legal sale of alcohol in Somerset for the first time since the end of Prohibition.
 “This has been a long process, but we are finally getting down to the finish line,” said Ping, owner of the development company over-seeing the new plaza. “Everyone wants to know what new restaurants are coming to Somerset. I probably get asked this question ten times a day.”
Ping said the restaurants are currently “conducting their due diligence, such as engineering, building design and approvals, etc.” Construction should begin in the next couple of months “if all goes well,” and the process will probably last several months into 2013.
“This is usually a difficult time of the year to begin construction,” he said. “Weather conditions and local/state approvals will play a role in determining the actual construction dates.”
The restaurants have entered into contracts with Little Big Time Development, a subsidiary of Stonebrook  Development.
 Headquarted in Louisville, Ky., Texas Roadhouse actually has deep roots in the Bluegrass state more than the Lonestar one; it was founded by native Kentuckian Kent Taylor, who formerly managed a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant. The company was founded in 1993 in Clarksville, Ind., and now operates around 320 locations in 46 states. It’s renowned for its steaks, ribs, chicken, and buckets of complimentary peanuts.
Steak ‘n Shake is another establishment of Midwestern origin, headquartered in Indianapolis after being founded in Normal, Illinois in 1934. The restaurant’s success has been anything but “Normal,” however,  expanding to approximately half the states in the U.S. , over 500 restaurants that are either company-owned or franchised. The restaurant has the feel of a classic diner and is famous for its Steakburger, sandwich melts, and milkshakes.
The arrival of the two restaurants signals a big step forward for the Stonegate Centre property. Talk of potential stores and restaurants began buzzing when the site was first excavated back in 2007. At the time, Ping said that there were “plans for four 1.5 acre restaurant or retail sites at the front of the property and a 15 to 20 acre site for a large retail center at the rear of the property.”
Very little actually materialized there over the years though, as the entire country saw itself fall into an economic tailspin that affected Pulaski County just as much as anywhere else. Ping noted that the national economy affected the expansion of retailers.
However, “I am starting to see some calculated movement among national tenants,” said Ping. “Junior tenants have been more active in the marketplace.  I routinely speak to the smaller retailers wanting space, especially if a new large retailer comes to town.    
“It’s kind of like a domino effect,” he added. “Once you land the ‘big box’ user, you can fill up the remaining space with junior tenants and develop your outparcels. Due to the economic downturn, we are having to work it backwards. We are filling up the outparcels and putting all junior tenants on hold until we can secure the anchor store.”  
One move specific to Somerset helped pushed development along this summer, after voters chose to allow alcohol sales by a margin of 2,176 “yes” votes to 1,464 “no” ballots. This has prompted plenty of local chatter about which new businesses might be looking to call Somerset home.
Ping said that the new additions will leave about two acres along U.S. 27 and 15 acres in the back undeveloped.  
“We are looking to add another restaurant or two and a ‘big box’ retail user,” he said. “...  I can count the large retailers, who are currently making deals, on one hand. I have directly or indirectly talked to all of them. We do have some interest from two or three at this time.”
Ping observed that the level of interest and time frames varies by company, but the economic impact, potentially pumping millions of dollars into the local economy, is worth the wait.
“It’s just great to see things moving again,” he said. “The creation of new jobs, new opportunities, and growth is encouraging for our community.”