This Week On The Street: July 9, 2012

by Harold Shumacher

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

This may come under the category of preaching to the choir as most readers of this publication are already in the real estate development, sales or leasing businesses but it never hurts to hear one more message. For anyone who makes their livelihood based on Atlanta’s continued growth the pending SPLOST transportation tax vote on July 31, 2012 is of utmost importance. It’s not that this plan is the panacea for Atlanta’s traffic woes-it’s not. What is a significant first step and a bold declarative statement by the metro Atlanta region that we understand we have a problem and now have a plan in place to help resolve that problem.

No the plan isn’t perfect-few are. The critical aspect is that it is broad based and forward thinking and for that reason it deserves support. The alternative is hard to imagine. At the minimum it would take one to two years to mount another referendum effort, go back through the laborious process of identifying what projects would be included, all the while watching fragile political coalitions come apart with changes in elected officials, revisions to state and federal transportation funding and competition from other cities for what few funds are available. The more telling issue if the referendum is defeated is the message that Atlanta is no longer “open for business” a far cry from when the city leadership was considered among the best in the country.

Author Thomas Wolfe famously declared you can never go home again. For over a quarter of a century one of my family’s spiritual homes has been the Florida panhandle, specifically the tiny beach town of Grayton Beach. A place we’ve returned to frequently and always enjoyed. We had not been there in the summer for eight years and let’s just say things ain’t the way they used to be.

The main attraction remains the pristine white beaches and the turquoise green water but now paddle boarders, wind surfers and large groups of families crowd the once nearly vacant landscape.

Thirty A, the main road connecting a string of small beach towns,  is now virtually lined with upscale residential developments emulating Seaside’s clapboard and tin roof look, and planned community layout. There’s an abundance of upscale retail centers, small galleries and interesting restaurants along the 30 miles of beach front real estate. The upside to all this development is an increasing array of better restaurants. Among our favorite stops this trip was Fire, partly owned by Atlanta resident and former Longhorn CEO Phil Hickey, located in Santa Rosa.

Nation’s Restaurant News, considered the industry bible, publishes its annual list of the top 100 chains around this time every year and it always proves an interesting read. The Cheesecake Factory leads the pack for estimated sales per unit checking in at over $10 million per location.  By comparison #98 Baskin Robins average slightly under $200,000/year. KFC, by itself sells $4.6 billion of products annually but Chick Fil A is not far behind reporting in at $3.99 billion. That may account for the Atlanta based company being among the top five in growth in unit level sales where they’re joined by Casey’s General Stores,   Jimmy John’s, Chipotle, and B.J’’s RestaurantPizza Hut and Domino’s account for 63% of all pizza sales.

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