There's no more oak oppression,
for they passed a noble law;
now the trees are all kept equal,
by hatchet, axe, and saw.
- Rush, The Trees
The local Zaxby's franchises are owned by George Duehring, of Evans, who is one of the highest-regarded business people around this town.
The Columbia County Chamber of Commerce demonstrated its regard for Duehring a couple of years ago by naming him its Lifetime Achievement winner. And Duehring can always be counted on to lend a hand, or a buck or two, for causes big and small.
So even though Columbia County lost another business last week when the Raising Cane's location on Furys Ferry Road closed, the sting is eased somewhat by knowing that one of Duehring's Zaxby's restaurants is just a few blocks away. (And there might soon be another Zaxby's nearby; apparently Duehring is buying the Cane's property on Washington Road in Augusta.)
But the real reason I have a hard time shedding a tear over Raising Cane's closing?
The oak trees.
Let's take a trip back through ancient history, shall we?
It was long ago, way back in the fall of '05 - as in 2005, which is eons ago when measured by fast-food standards - that the first Raising Cane's restaurant opened in our community.
Columbia County had the distinction of landing the area's first outpost of the Louisiana-based franchise, which features a short menu consisting almost entirely of chicken fingers.
When the restaurant opened, I wrote a column asking two questions:
1. How can a restaurant that serves just chicken fingers survive? (We now know this answer, at least around here: It can't - not these days, anyway.)
The second question:
2. What happened to all those oak trees nearby?
Starting to remember now? See, it really wasn't that long ago, was it?
When Raising Cane's opening was imminent, someone involved with the chain happened to notice the row of beautiful oak trees standing in front of the Publix shopping center where the new restaurant was opening.
Rather than seeing majestic oaks, however, this particular person saw leaves blocking motorists' view of the Cane's sign. He asked a county employee if those pesky trees could be hacked down - and that employee said, "Duh, OK."
A passerby noticed the foliage carnage and blew the whistle, but by then seven of the oaks had been felled. Tempers flared, fingers wagged, and eventually the seven stumps were dug up and replaced with new - though considerably smaller - oak saplings.
Four years later, driving by the shopping center, past the now-empty Raising Cane's building, you'll notice a row of nine oak trees: seven the same size, with the two survivors of the Tree Massacre of '05 standing taller at one end.
It seems those trees got the last laugh after all.
Incidentally, after the Loco's restaurant across the street from Cane's closed a while back, it followed what seems to be a pattern in Columbia County: It became a Mexican restaurant. Pablano's will open a second location at Loco's soon.
The first Pablano's opened in the defunct Twisted Chicken Cafe site on Evans-to-Locks at Town Center Drive. Before that, El Kiosko in Grovetown opened in a former Wife Saver.
Just recently, a Mi Rancho took over the former Khalid's Cafe in Evans, and nearby, Salsa's is opening soon in the former Patagonia Grill location.
And for really ancient historians, the original Monterey in Martinez used to be a Del Taco franchise.
So: We're pretty sure the empty Augusta Cane's will become a Zaxby's. Anyone want to bet on what the Martinez Cane's building will become?
And wouldn't it be really funny if it was a second location for Harlem's Acorn Restaurant?
By the way: If you're wondering what's now under construction on Belair Road next to Cracker Barrel, it's a Burger King.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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