This Week on The Street-March 31, 2011

by Harold Shumacher

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This Week on The Street

(A more or less regular compilation of news, factoids and observations.)

By Harold V. Shumacher

March 31, 2011

Despite today’s date this is no joke the economy is getting better.  At least according to several panelists participating in Bis Now’s Retail  Summit held earlier this week.  The overall consensus from the four landlords and five tenant reps who spoke was that rental rates were stabilizing in most markets and,  in the highly sought after A markets,  there was the beginnings of  a slight upward tick with anecdotal reports of two or more tenants often vying for the same location.

Some other items gleaned. Expect Wal-Mart to being rapid expansion of its 15,000 sq. ft. Wal Mart Express concept, which will feature both groceries and a pharmacy (the continuation of an interesting transition of grocery stores into drug stores and drug stores into convenience stops.) Retailers like Chipotle, Game Stop and Family Dollar are also optimistic about their growth opportunities in the next few years. Chipotle, for example will likely add 140 stores in 2011 and a similar number in 2012 before beginning their international expansion.  Game Stop, a nine plus billion dollar business, expects to grow 300-350 stores per year from its current 6,600 level. Family Dollar will also continue its rapid expansion with more and more free-standing spots.

Hunter Richardson, Oliver McMillian’s recently hired day to day overseer of the Streets of Buckhead project, expects construction to start on the now stalled project to start by year’s end with an early 2013 completion date. Ideally, he explained, they would like to keep some of the high end retail original developer Ben Carter focused on while adding a mix of one of a kind boutiques, specialty shops and locally owned and operated restaurants. The project will likely include 370 apartments and 40-50,000 square feet of office to complement the 350,000 square foot retail component.

Also expect big changes in the retail and restaurant line up  at Atlantic Station. North American Properties Ron Pfoal noted the company is targeting specialty retail targeted toward the 20-35 creative class that is an overlooked segment in town. Geisha House has closed with the anticipated closing of other social gathering establishments (such as Dolce and Fox Sports Grill) to follow shortly.

Fast-casual and limited-service sandwich chains continue to be among the fastest-growing restaurant brands in the country. Among chains with at least $200 million in annual sales, Five Guys Burgers and Fries grew the fastest in 2010, with sales up 38 percent to an estimated $625 million and a 35-percent growth in units. Jimmy John’s increased sales 22 percent to an estimated $735 million and increased its store count by 20 percent. Fast-casual heavyweight Chipotle Mexican Grill grew sales 21 percent to $1.83 billion and expanded its store count by 14 percent.

Big congrats to the local James Beard nominees, announced earlier this week : Linton Hopkins (Restaurant Eugene, Holeman & Finch), Hugh Acheson (Athen’s Five & Ten, Empire State South), and Joseph Dabney for his stunning “The Food, Folklore, and Art of Lowcountry Cooking” were all nominated for the prestigious award.

A tip of the hat also to charismatic local chef and Flip Burger co-founderRichard Blais,  named Bravo T.V.’s Top Chef earlier this week.

On Thursday, April 14, the 23rd annual Share Our Strength/Taste of The Nation Atlanta, will be held at the Georgia Aquarium. This year’s event will honor chefs who have supported the event for the past ten years. The 2011 Honorary Chairperson is New York restaurateur Danny Meyers. Event Co-Chair, Pano Karatassos, says that this year’ goal is to raise $800,000.

Clucking along in the Queen City

It’s been a busy month on the ICSC circuit. In early March, Atlanta was the site for the Retail Connection a three hour meet the retailer fest where the Shumacher Group featured 15-20 of their most active clients.  Two weeks later we were at the Charlotte ICSC.  The mood in Carolina is similar to what we hear around the country-cautious optimism. Overall the state is in decent shape.  University and technology centers like Chapel Hill and Raleigh are doing well. Charlotte, with its heavy dependence on the banking industry,  is feeling the pains of the great recession and still has higher than normal unemployment rates.

While in Charlotte we had the change to sample two of the city’s most historic restaurants The Penguin Drive In and Price’s Chicken Coop. The Penguin, recently acquired by Moe’s and Planet Smoothie founder Martin Sprock, is a neighborhood joint in the best sense of the word. Crowded into an intown shopping area just west of the downtown area, the tiny storefront features burgers and barbecue.  Since the acquisition the inevitable naysayers have popped up claiming it’s not as good as it used to be, corporate sell out etc. etc. We thought it was a pretty good stop and deserving of its local accolades.

Another great stop was Price’s Chicken Coop, a mainstay in the city’s South End neighborhood approximately ten minutes from the convention center.  Featuring fried chicken, the 50 year old business offers no indoor seating. We enjoyed our fried bird, with hushpuppies, fries and slaw, from the top of a nearby newspaper box that served as a table.

Another chicken stop of note is East Atlanta’s Delia’s Chicken Sausage Stand from Flying Biscuit Founder Delia Champion and Porter co-owner Molly Gunn.  The recently opened East Atlanta storefront offers fresh ground  chicken sausage, the meat  from Springer Farms,  paired with a wide variety of toppings and freshly baked buns from Holman & Finch.

Congratulations to the following clients who have successfully completed business sales or acquisitions or leases during the past few weeks:

La Parilla Oglethorpe Mall Savannah, Ga.

Paris Bistro Suntrust Plaza

 

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