When local KFC franchisee Billy Wingate made the final decision to close his remaining three restaurants, it was done with a heavy heart.
“It was the toughest decision I ever made in my life,” said Wingate, owner of the family-operated franchise. “It really hurts.”
The fast-food restaurants at both 215 Furys Ferry Road in Martinez and 4088 Jimmie Dyess Parkway off Interstate 20 near Grovetown closed Feb. 10, and Wingate is planning to shut down his final location at 898 Horizon South Parkway in Grovetown within two weeks once the remaining food has been used, he said.
The recent closures were caused by the increased costs in labor and food, Wingate said.
“It was just impossible to make any money,” he said.
About 75 employees at the three locations will lose their jobs, Wingate said.
“It’s hard to go in there and tell someone you have to close down the store,” said Wingate, who opened his first area KFC in Barnwell, S.C., in 1988. “It’s hard for me to talk about.”
Wingate was forced to close his KFC restaurant on Washington Road near the Evans Walmart in May 2012 after it had been open for about three years.
That location had difficult access into the restaurant’s parking lot. said Wingate, adding he invested a lot of money into the site.
Wingate purchased the property thinking a traffic light would be installed in front of the Chimney Hill and Country Place subdivisions, which are near the former restaurant, he said.
The economy and a national promotional campaign for free meals also factored into the restaurant’s closure in Evans, he said.
In late 2010, Wingate sold his former Columbia Road KFC location to the owners of a local Zaxby’s franchise.
There are parties interested in purchasing the remaining KFC properties owned by Wingate, he said.
There are nine other KFC locations across Augusta, North Augusta, Aiken, Waynesboro and Wrens, according to KFC's Web site.