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Applebee's planning new north location

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by Paul Flemming

SBJ Staff

Recent months have seen the high-profile closure of a number of southside Springfield restaurants. One restaurateur that has not closed amid the competition down south will build another location on the north side, where owners said they see a niche to fill.

Applebee's will begin construction on a second Springfield location the week of Aug. 31. Ozark Apples Inc. is the owner of the restaurant planned for North Glenstone in the southwest corner of the North Town Mall parking lot, said Greg McGhee, vice president of operations and managing partner. A mid-December opening is anticipated.

"We feel that end of town needs a full-service, casual dining establishment," McGhee said.

Ozark Apples opened the Applebee's at 1855 E. Primrose, just off South Glenstone, five years ago, as its first restaurant. The newest restaurant will be the company's seventh Applebee's, along with two Rio Bravo Cantinas it also owns.

Gregory Walton is the firm's principal partner. Walton Construction, another of his companies, is the contractor on the project. Butler, Rosenbury & Partners is the architect. The land under the restaurant is owned by Wal-Mart and will be leased, McGhee said.

McGhee said the new store has been a year in the planning. Proximity to Interstate 44 and recent hotel development in the area of North Glenstone make the location attractive, he said.

"It's a bit of a gamble," McGhee said. "And we will cannibalize a little bit, if you will, from our south store" with customers in north Springfield no longer traveling to the Primrose store. But the lack of similar restaurants in the area indicates the venture will have a demand.

Greenhouse Market and Bombay Bicycle Club, both within a half mile of the southside Applebee's, are among the restaurants that have closed in recent months. Yet other restaurant chains, including the Fox & Hound at James River Towne Center, continue to open in south Springfield.

The building will be a new prototype for Applebee's, McGhee said, with a slightly different exterior look and new interior decor and layout.

"The inside will change pretty dramatically," he said, noting different color schemes and a waiting area double the size of previous designs among the differences.

Ozark Apples Inc., in addition to the two Springfield locations, owns Applebee's in Branson, Joplin, Columbia, Jefferson City and Rogers, Ark. The company owns Rio Bravo Cantinas in Springfield and Fayetteville, Ark.

"Once we build this one, we will have completed our franchise agreement" with Applebee's, McGhee said. He said the company will consider purchasing other franchise areas or "back filling" its current markets placing second locations in markets that merit it, as with this latest project.

Tiffany Tabor, who has worked for the company since the opening of Ozark Apples' first Applebee's on Primrose, will be general manager of the North Glenstone store. McGhee said hiring for staff at the new restaurant will begin in the middle of October.

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