McDuffie County leaders say they let an opportunity slip away when it couldn't reach an agreement with Ruby Tuesday to build a restaurant near Interstate 20.
Now, they are trying to ensure that it doesn't happen again.
"Thomson doesn't have a nationally recognized sit-down restaurant, and Thomson, of course, needs one," said Planning Board Director Fred Guerrant. "We have looked for someone to come in and the fit that bill, but for one reason or another they cannot work out the details on the lot or on the parcel that they're looking for."
City and county officials were happy when Ruby Tuesday approached them last year with plans to build a restaurant near the interstate. However, Krystal wanted to share an adjoining lot and complications arose with the parking plan. Ruby Tuesday was still considering its plans when officials accepted the plan to allow only Krystal to build on the lot - effectively stunting Ruby Tuesday's plans. Thomson has been waiting ever since for another nationally known restaurant chain to come knocking on the door again.
Mike Carrington, former president of the Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce and a current Thomson city councilman, thinks acquiring a restaurant will be a vital addition to the city.
"We need something like an Applebee's or a (T.G.I.) Friday's," he said. "It just never did materialize. We ought to go back to those people and say, 'Let's find you a piece of property,' because we really do need something in that range."
Questions still remain regarding existing space that would allow such a facility to be built. Almost all of the lots near I-20 on either side that would be available for commercial purposes are full.
"There are very limited possibilities there," said Guerrant.
He also stressed that if a restaurant were to build near the interstate, a large sign would need to be built and visible to traveling motorists.
"We don't want to put our restaurant over the hill (located a half-mile off of I-20 toward downtown) or we can't get a sign high enough for people to see it," he said. "I think they'd want to be on the main drag."
Guerrant mentioned that the only real possibility would be if someone were to buy the lot that used to be home to Denny's, but admitted it may be a while before it's purchased.
"Once we're through this war and the economy picks up I think you'll see somebody buy it."
Carrington believes that when a new person is in place to lead industrial development for the Chamber of Commerce, part of their focus will be the area's desire for a nationally recognized restaurant.
"When they hire that person, I am personally going to say, 'This is something we kind of dropped the ball on, let's go after an Applebee's or a Ruby Tuesday's.' That's just something that would help the town," he said.
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