• 63°

Wal Mart closes deal

AHOSKIE – The papers are signed….all that’s left is for construction to begin.

Wal-Mart Real Estate Business Trust has officially closed the deal to construct a Super Center off US 13 South, adjacent to Freeman Metal Products, in Ahoskie. Ahoskie Town Manager Tony Hammond confirmed that information on Tuesday afternoon.

“(Wal Mart) has not finalized their contract with the construction firm as of yet, but that’s the only thing standing between them and the start of building their new Super Center here in Ahoskie,” Hammond said. “The land deal has closed, the rezoning has taken place and the permitting process is complete.”

Hammond added that conversations he has had with Wal Mart officials up until this point indicate that a construction contract will be issued soon.

“From what they’re telling me, we may see something happening at the property within the next two to three weeks,” Hammond said. “They will not hold any type of groundbreaking ceremony.”

From all indications, Hammond said the 125,000 square foot facility may be open as early as March of next year.

The property (17.33 acres) was purchased from Mary Francis Perry Johnson. The Ahoskie Town Council earlier approved rezoning that same property from R-20 to B-3. Additionally, town officials have certified the sufficiency of a voluntary annexation petition and has expanded the town limits to include that property.

In other economic development news, Hammond said the recent effort to attract new businesses to town is paying off.

Abrams Barbecue of Tarboro has begun renovations of the old Popeyes Restaurant located on Memorial Drive near Central Ford. Abrams officials earlier informed the town that they hope to have the restaurant open early next year.

Meanwhile, the partnership between the town and The Buxton Group, a Texas-based company that spent the better part of last year conducting broad based marketing research to attract new retail stores and restaurants to the Ahoskie “drive time” market, has, according to Hammond, attracted “two bites.”

Hammond said Tuesday that of the 10 new businesses targeted by the Buxton survey as a good fit for the Ahoskie market, he has been in discussions with two.

“Hardees and Sonic Drive-In are interested in Ahoskie,” Hammond said. “I’m doing some follow-up with both at this time. Hardees appears to be very interested, so much to the point that they’re looking at several possible locations here in town.”

Back in January, Buxton met with interested local citizens and business leaders, a group that culled a long list of possible new businesses for Buxton and Ahoskie officials to concentrate their efforts. Other than Hardees and Sonic, that list included Huddle House, Shoney’s, Applebees, Western Sizzlin Steakhouse, Zaxby’s, Denny’s, Peebles Department Store and Tractor Supply Company.

“The majority of what we’re looking for is restaurants,” Hammond noted at that meeting in January. “That’s the key thing for our market. We’re already strong in auto supply stores, furniture stores, pizza places, pharmacies and grocery stores. I don’t want to see us waste one of our 10 letters on these types of businesses that are already strong in our market.”

The Buxton Group launched its study in March of last year. Their methodology in performing its research of the Ahoskie/Hertford County retail trade/restaurant area was to first identify who those customers are, where they live and what is their value to the local market. After developing the trade area, Buxton used data gained through over 350 consumer information sources to match the best retailers to fit that area.

The Hertford County Board of Commissioners, Town of Ahoskie, Ahoskie Chamber of Commerce, the Mid-East Commission and the Northeast Commission joined together to pay Buxton $25,000 to perform the marketing study and put the town in direct contact with the top 10 businesses identified at the January meeting.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

email author More by Cal