Applebee's and a larger Bob Evans restaurant will open up near Premiere Theater sometime during the summer.
Bethany Dentler, Norwalk's economic development director, announced the plans to bring the restaurants into Norwalk Commons at the Norwalk Economic Development Corporation (NEDC) annual investor's luncheon Thursday. The luncheon was held in the lobby of the theater.
Both restaurants will be located on U.S. 250 where the Batesville Caskets currently stands. Batesville's new building further back in the development should be complete by mid-December, Dentler said. Once the company's operation has been moved to the new facility, the old building will be dismantled and removed.
A new street will be built leading from U.S. 250 directly back to the theater on the site of the old building. The larger Bob Evans will be on the north side of the new street and Applebee's will be on the south side.
"Pride One's vision of a destination entertainment/retail-based development is finally coming to fruition," Dentler said. Pride One is the developer of Norwalk Commons.
"There are a number of retailers that have been waiting in the wings for these restaurants to be built, because they, too, see the great potential in the Norwalk market," she added.
Patrick J. Eulberg, vice president of the company bringing in Applebee's, said he wants to break ground as soon as possible in the spring and he hopes to open by mid-summer. He said the building and equipment will cost around $1.4 million and his company will consider local contractors. "Generally, there's a lot of local participation," he said.
Once the restaurant is up and running, he added, four to five full-time managers will be hired. He estimated hiring about 85 employees eventually.
IHOP Corp. is in the process of buying Applebee's International, but Eulberg said that corporate move doesn't mean changes for his company, Apple American Group LLC., which owns 145 Appleebee's franchises in eight states.
"We think there's a great opportunity for us," he said, because IHOP has announced they want to franchise the restaurants that Applebee International now owns. "IHOP's goal is to improve on the marketing and concentrate on the menu rather than operate the restaurants," he said.
"We'll buy some if the opportunity is right," Eulberg said. He said his company was recently named Franchisee of the Year by the chain.
Eulberg said Norwalk's Applebee's will look a little different from the Sandusky restaurant his company also owns. The company was building a greenhouse series 12 years ago when the Sandusky restaurant was built, but is now using a tower series. He said Norwalk's version will look like a new restaurant he is opening in Lorain next month.
The company built 11 new Applebee's this year and Eulberg estimated they will open between two and eight in 2008.
"We're talking to a lot of developers in a lot of different areas," he said "But we're conservative. We have to find the right deal."
Chuck Furey, the president of NEDC's advisory board, gave the group an annual report. "In 2007 so far," he said, "22 companies expanded in Norwalk, creating 230 new jobs and investing over $30 million." Furey said 12 of those companies worked with NEDC during their expansions.
"From family entertainment to manufacturing, some of Norwalk's oldest companies continue to grow," he said.
Furey also told the group that the March edition of Site Selection magazine ranked Norwalk in the top 25 micropolitan areas in the nation for its ability to attract new businesses and support expansions.