ToquiNotes: Educated Guess from Someone Educated on What May be Next at Vacated City Restaurant

By Jeff Toquinto on November 11, 2017 from ToquiNotes via Connect-Bridgeport.com

One of the inquiries I get a lot of when out and about relates to what businesses, particularly restaurants, have I heard that are coming to or even considering coming to town. In the past few months, I’ve had about a dozen people ask me about if anything was taking place at the old Long John Silver’s building at the Home Depot Plaza.
 
You know the building? It housed Sol Azteca for about six months before flying the white flag about a year ago.
 
It was around Thanksgiving and into the early parts of December last year when it became apparent that the handwritten “Closed for Thanksgiving” sign on the Mexican restaurant door was really an indicator that it had closed for good.
 
For some, the actual failing of a business was reason to thump their chest because, after all, several had pronounced there were too many Mexican restaurants in the area and some even said the city shouldn’t allow it (so much for free enterprise and capitalism). It didn’t matter that someone invested $80,000 to upgrade the building and felt Bridgeport was worth a financial risk. What mattered was those who predicted a failure were right and they were gleefully pronouncing their happiness on our social media platforms.
 
I digress.
 
When a friend became the most recent person to ask me to check the status of the building I agreed to. The caveat was I would rant about what I just ranted about and because of my written rant I feel so much better.
 
I digress again.
 
Here’s what I can tell you for those hoping some national chain will land in the spot. It probably won’t happen. That’s not me saying that. I’m not qualified. Bridgeport Community Development Director Randy Spellman, however, is qualified.
 
“The reason it’s going to stay more regional or likely local on the retail front is because of limited parking,” said Spellman. “That building meets the city’s requirements for parking, but for national chains their footprints for a structure and the subsequent parking needed don’t fit. I would find it surprising if a national chain went in place there, but it could happen.”
 
That should also be good news for those who hate anything that’s not local. Count yours truly as someone who likes a good meal from a family establishment, but I also hit the national chains and won’t bash anyone investing in Bridgeport, Harrison County or the state be it local, regional or national in nature.
 
I know what you want to know. Is anything coming there?
 
The answer isn’t out there. The building has actually set vacant now for nearly a year.
 
Spellman doesn’t think it will go another year. And for a few reasons.
 
“That’s a great location that’s visible along Route 50, which is our Main Street,” said Spellman. “You add that to the amount of traffic passing by and the success Walgreens is experiencing and I’d actually think if it got past next spring without a new tenant announcing plans going in there I’d be surprised.”
 
Another reason Spellman thinks it will be filled doesn’t have anything to do with the geographic location of the building. Rather, it’s more concrete.
 
“In the last six to eight months, we’ve had two or three calls to the city from groups interested in the building. Those are the calls we know about because we’re not the group to call,” said Spellman. “We forward them to The Glimcher Group.”
 
The Glimcher Group is the Pittsburgh-based commercial real estate company and brokerage that has managed the shopping plaza for decades, including when it was Hill’s Plaza.  For the record, Glimcher like any other developer won’t say a word about negotiations or anything until a deal is done. With that said, here’s a little history of what Glimcher has had in that building.
 
Long John Silver’s final day in Bridgeport was Dec. 31, 2005. It sat vacant for more than year until Snyder’s Gourmet Market occupied the space from June 18, 2007 to June 30, 2009. The structure didn’t stay out of operation long after that as Hank’s Deli opened shop on Nov. 5, 2009 and remained in business until closing Feb. 6, 2015 – all of this according to the City of Bridgeport’s tax department.
 
“What that building needs is someone interested in opening a smaller, family-type business that can make itself suited to the community,” said Spellman. “I really don’t think a chain is going to ever go there.”
 
Spellman also thinks whoever lands there will keep it as a restaurant. Not that it couldn’t be something else, he just doesn’t think it lends itself to another type of business – particularly for a small or regional restaurant looking to open in Bridgeport.
 
“For it to change to a retail or more of an office setting would take some extensive remodeling, which would cost a lot of money,” said Spellman. “It’s definitely meant to be used as, and is laid out for, a restaurant or something in the food service line.”
 
Spellman added that he doesn’t think demolishing the building would set the stage for any type of opening for a national brand building on the site either. And that includes restaurants or any other type of business.
 
“You could tear it down and put something back, but you’d still have the same issues with the footprint there as it relates to parking and national guidelines,” said Spellman. “Again, it could happen, but everything points to a local or regional business going in there and operating a restaurant.”
 
So for those that wanted to know, there you go. For those disappointed there’s not something new, I’m sure they’ll be some complaints.

Actually, even if there was news of something new there would probably be some complaints as well that it wasn’t what a few wanted. But I digress.
 
Editor's Note: Top photo shows the lease sign currently in the store, while the second photo shows the "Close for Thanksgiving" sign that turned out to be a closed for good sign. Bottom picture is of Community Development Director Randy Spellman.


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