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The first Applebee's in the state closed its doors in September after the landlord and tenant could not come to an agreement on the rent and improvements.

Applebee’s franchisee defends County Line; Burlington to open store

 A 50,000-square-foot Burlington store will open next year in County Line Plaza, filling vacancies left by Barnes and Noble and Office Depot. Tuesday Morning will move to elsewhere in the plaza.

A 50,000-square-foot Burlington store will open next year in County Line Plaza, filling vacancies left by Barnes and Noble and Office Depot. Tuesday Morning will move to elsewhere in the plaza.

By JACK WEATHERLY 

The franchisees for Applebee’s Bar and Grill on County Line Road were ready to end the lease, but the restaurant wouldn’t let them do it.

Quality Restaurant Concepts LLC had had plans to close it, but the receipts said no, said Wade Crawford, director of marketing for the Birmingham-based firm.

Revenue from the County Line operation was typical of their other Applebee’s restaurants, Crawford said.

So QRC departed from its business model and decided to keep it open because the receipts were good – even though the franchise holder had opened another Applebee’s on Lake Harbour Dr. in Ridgeland in February of 2009.

“We don’t normally put them that close together,” Crawford said in a telephone interview. QRC has 60 Applebee’s in five states, including 15 in Mississippi, with its 16th to open in Natchez in 2016.

The landlord, Stonemar Properties of New York, took care of that, according to Crawford.

Negotiations broke off after the parties couldn’t reach an agreement on what Crawford said are capital improvements required by Applebee’s Services, an arm of the parent, DineEquity.

“We’ve got to maintain the buildings. You don’t see any rundown McDonald’s,” he said.

“Every one of our restaurants is on a four- to five-year renovation cycle,” he said. “It’s a great location. They just need to go in and do the improvements.”

Calls to Stonemar for this article were not returned.

The restaurant was built in 1988 and was the first Applebee’s in Mississippi, Crawford said, adding that QRC bought it in 1998, along with other Mississippi locations.

Since then, the Birmingham firm has added eight Applebee’s to its Mississippi holdings.

Crawford has good things to say about the mile-long Country Line Road retail corridor – which has taken its licks in recent years with the loss of some of its prestige stores.

Speaking of the boulevard, Crawford said that “a lot that could be done there” by the cities of Ridgeland and Jackson.

A business improvement district has been proposed and studied but has not gotten off the ground. The district would be funded by a self-imposed fee system.

A 75-page survey completed in 2014 to form a district languishes.

The study suggests a voluntary fee on commercial property along the street that would raise between $1.2 million and $3.5 million annually.

How the revenue would be used hasn’t been decided, because the district has not been formed.

That would take a 60 percent approval from the stakeholders – owners of land and buildings – who would comprise the district, as required by state law.

Alan Hart, director of community development for Ridgeland, said in September that there has been no traction on the proposal.

“I have had conversations with some of the larger landowners, and at this point I don’t have their support,” Hart said. “So there’s not much reason to push forward until I get the support of what’s going to appear to be a solid percentage.”

Most of the properties would be on the Ridgeland side and so 61 percent of the revenue would be derived from Madison County property, many owners of which are not local.

Crawford said that the fact that County Line is an exit on Interstate 55 is a huge plus.

“There’s still a lot of potential in the area,” he said.

* * *

Burlington Stores will fill a large hole in the retail lineup at County Line Plaza in Jackson by opening a 50,000-square-foot outlet.

The factory outlet will occupy space long ago vacated by Office Depot and Barnes and Noble Booksellers.

LifeWay Christian Store occupies part of the former Barnes and Noble space, which moved to the Renaissance at Colony Park in Ridgeland, when the lifestyle mall opened in 2008.

To make room for Burlington, Tuesday Morning will move to a slightly smaller space – 12,000 square feet, down from 15,150 – said a spokeswoman for Atlanta-based Brixmor Property Group, which owns the plaza.

The outlet is expected to be ready for occupancy in about a year, the spokeswoman said.

Burlington will comprise nearly a fourth of the 221,127-square-foot shopping center.

Burlington has a store in Metrocenter Mall in Jackson.

Calls to Burlington headquarters in Burlington, N.J., were not returned.

About Jack Weatherly

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