We recently announced Starbucks as one of two new tenants for the old Applebee’s building on Tom Austin Hwy. This made a lot of people happy, but there were also many people who had suggestions on other businesses they would prefer to see open in Springfield. The good news is that it’s not a one and done situation. In this blog post I am going to discuss what it takes to bring businesses to Springfield and what we can do to continue attracting new, popular ones like Target, Chick-fil-A and Buffalo Wild Wings.
One popular misconception is that municipalities or a chamber of commerce place businesses into locations. Certainly both the City of Springfield and Robertson County Chamber of Commerce are hugely helpful, but ultimately it’s a match-making process between owners and businesses (plus their respective brokers.) For example, there may be a sandwich shop considering opening a franchise in Springfield. Mostly this franchisee or their broker would contact me directly, but sometimes they will call the Chamber of Commerce to inquire about available locations. The Chamber might share my contact information to the franchisee and I get a phone to discuss available properties. Thanks, Chamber!
The second point to make when discussing recruiting businesses is that developers, like myself, don’t cherry-pick brands. We don’t just pick up the phone and say, “Ok Chick-fil-A, we have the perfect location for you. Please be open by March 1st. Thank you..click.” We all wish it were that easy! Robertson County would have a fantastic mix of stores and restaurants to enjoy.
So how does the process work? When Starbucks, for example, focused on opening a new drive-thru location in Springfield it took about two years to put together. My first contact with them was in March of 2018 when they did a tour of Springfield to target potential locations. At first we pitched them a new build and spent the next eight months discussing specifics. In the meantime, Applebee’s closed and Starbucks decided to give it a closer look. They like the stop light to make it easier to access. They like that it’s on the right hand side of the newly expanded Tom Austin Hwy. You might ask, why does the right side of the road matter? Well the right side is called the “breakfast side” because drivers can make an easy right turn to get coffee on the way to work rather than having to cross traffic by turning left.
So, the location is checking a lot of boxes for Starbucks, but what about Springfield’s demographics? Starbucks had the benefit of opening a small, walk-in store in Kroger’s. So they know the level of interest. Good news – it was strong enough to warrant opening a drive-thru location. We get a team together; brokers, an architect, civil engineers, contractors and more to iron-out the specifics. Two years and seven months later we have a signed lease with Starbucks slated to open in the Spring of 2021.
In my opinion, the best part about Starbucks’ new location is the excitement they create for a community. They are a business attractor – much like a large grocery store or department store they create traffic which attracts other stores and restaurants. They are generally located in commercial hubs and surrounded by many of the brands we all hope will come to Springfield. Quite simply, they foreshadow Springfield’s coming commercial growth.
Now, what about that big department store or sit-down restaurant you want to come to Springfield? They have done their homework on our town and for various reasons may not see us as a fit at this moment. Perhaps our population is too low, or our median income is not as high as they would prefer. Thankfully both of these numbers are on the rise!
Small towns surrounding Nashville continue to boom thanks to Nashville’s popularity. Whenever I sell a house in Robertson County, I’d say 80% of the time the Buyer is from outside our county. Many of these buyers are commuters or now working from home long-term (Due to COVID) and bringing higher incomes along with them. Add enough of them together and perhaps our growth in population and income will grab the attention of your favorite franchise.
Be on the lookout for my next blog post, we’ll discuss sit down chain restaurants. We all want more of them in Springfield, but why do they continue to close?