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Fred Dallas says Roma of Springfield's sales grew by 24 percent to $105 million between 2007 and 2010, leading to expansion plans.
Fred Dallas says Roma of Springfield's sales grew by 24 percent to $105 million between 2007 and 2010, leading to expansion plans.

Signs of Spring

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The grip of winter – and the economy – may be relaxing.

Construction of an 87,000-square-foot Academy Sports and Outdoors complex in the James River Commons center on South Campbell Avenue is under way.

McLane Co. is hiring for its $30 million, 450,000-square-foot distribution center in Republic as construction wraps up.

Food distributor Roma of Springfield is expanding its west Springfield center to accommodate a more than 20 percent upswing in sales through the last four years.

From a coming Hy-Vee grocery to a second Einstein Bros. bagel shop, it appears local development may be coming out of the freeze it’s been under since 2008.

Retail and industrial
Stu Stenger of Ron Stenger Cos., co-developer of the Sam’s Club-anchored James River Commons, said Houston, Texas-based retailer Academy Sports & Outdoors should help attract new business to the 63-acre site at Campbell Avenue and James River Freeway.

Stenger said site work was recently completed, and the store on nine acres should open in the fall. Stenger declined to disclose terms of the deal but said his team had been in negotiations with Academy on and off for years. Stenger welcomed James River Commons’ first and only tenant, Sam’s Club, when it opened in July 2009, but a tight economy has kept other business development at bay.

“We’re talking to a few right now, but nothing definite. With the addition of Academy after the Sam’s, it has increased interest quite a bit,” Stenger said.

Stenger said he is targeting restaurants for the remaining five parcels.

Dave Murray, partner in commercial real estate company RB Murrary Co., said the local real estate market is still struggling, but recent industrial and manufacturing developments have been encouraging.

RB Murray represents the owners of the 60/65 Partnership LLC, which plans to develop 600 acres near the interchange of highways 60 and 65, where the Missouri Department of Transportation is wrapping up a $57 million flyover overhaul set for completion in October.

“The retail market, as a whole, has been crushed all the way across the country, not just in Springfield. But those needs that were there at the inception of the 60/65 project are still there. There are a number of retailers that are not in the community that would like to be here, that I think will come to the table when the overall market returns,” Murray said, pointing to past interests by Costco, Crate & Barrel and Stein Mart.

“Almost all development will go to the least path of resistance, and if you don’t have your property positioned in a way that appeals to those developers, and in the right marketplace, nothing happens.”

He said with the 60/65 flyover ramps nearly complete and the recent zoning amendment approved, everything is in place for the development – except the retailers.

“It’s now in a position where something can happen,” said Murray, adding that council-approved amendments would allow infrastructure to come as the business comes and not all at once. “We’re positioned better than ever.”

Retail aside, Murray said industrial and manufacturing projects are gaining steam. In March, Murray brokered contracts with three such companies, one from out of town, to build or expand facilities. He declined to name the businesses until the deals close.

Rise in food
Fred Dallas, president of food-service distributor Roma of Springfield, said sales have been exceeding expectations, and that has led to a 35,000-square-foot expansion at its 80,000-square-foot west Springfield distribution center, 4551 W. Maple St.

“We’ve had a great couple of years in spite of the economy, and we were rewarded here in Springfield with the expansion,” Dallas said of the Richmond, Va.-based Performance Food Group-owned company. “Our current customers have pretty much maintained their business levels. Our growth has been primarily driven by adding new business.”

Dallas said Roma of Springfield’s 2010 revenues closed at $105 million, a 24 percent gain compared to $85 million in 2007. The company plans to spend about $5.2 million in capital investment, including 50 new jobs, during the next five years. Dallas said he expects to start hiring for sales, warehouse and transportation positions by early May.

Roma of Springfield serves roughly 1,500 food-service customers – namely pizzerias, and Mexican and Italian restaurants – in nine Midwestern states. Dallas-based Pizza Inn is one of its new customers and one of the reasons for the expansion, which is expected to be complete by the end of July.

Dallas said the company qualified for more than $800,000 in state tax incentives with its investment plans.

Rita Baron of Baron Design & Associates Inc. and co-owner of Einstein Bros. Bagels on South National Avenue across from St. John’s Hospital, said Springfield’s second Einstein Bros. is due to open in mid-June at 4420 S. Campbell Ave. as anchor of a strip center to be constructed across from James River Commons. For two other locations in town, Baron and partner Terry Reynolds of C. Arch Bay Co. are eyeing spots on Battlefield Road, South National and East Sunshine.

And that’s not all. Baron’s RT Development LLC, which opened the 1933 S. National Ave. location July 13, opened a Chicago store Dec. 13 and has a goal of five in Chicagoland. She also is looking at possible sites in Joplin and St. Robert’s.     

“It’s a simple business model: If there’s growth, that’s where we should be,” Baron said of the company’s fast-casual approach with healthy and affordable options.

A study released in June by food-service industry consultant Technomic found that 2009 sales for the top 100 fast-casual chains reached $17.5 billion, a 4.5 percent increase compared to 2008, and total units in that category grew by 4.3 percent to 14,777 locations. Still, according to Baron, nothing is a sure bet.

“There’s always risks,” Baron said. “You just have to gamble based on your instincts and by watching and seeing what other industries are doing, and pray and say, ‘OK, let’s go.’”[[In-content Ad]]

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