As a growing city, Delaware has been experiencing many new businesses and restaurants coming in and out of the town. For Buehler’s Groceries, it’s been a bit of a struggle to keep customers coming through the doors for the past couple of years.
However, a solution has been proposed. Covelli Enterprises has ground-leased an outlet of 1.3 acres in front of Buehler’s for a new Panera Bread building. Buehler’s has asked for this rezoning request in order to proceed with the construction of three commercial buildings that would sit on West Central Avenue in front of Buehler’s existing location. Buehler’s director of construction and maintenance, Becky Foster, has stated that three buildings will be constructed as they are leased, starting with a corner lot already spoken for by Panera. Since the Panera agreement includes terms that deter Buehler’s from contracting with another restaurant, the other buildings will house retail shops.
“We’re struggling in Delaware,” Foster said. “We want to stay in this community, but we’ve got to fight.” It’s no secret that Buehler’s over the years has been competing with other grocery stores such as Kroger’s for their customers. Buehler’s hopes that this plan with Panera will increase its business and attract more retail stores. Hayes Sophomore, Peyton Ennis, whose family has lived just around the corner from Buehler’s for years doesn’t even go inside the store very often. “Every now and then we get something there, but we usually do our shopping at Kroger’s,” Ennis said. Foster says that if Buehler’s doesn’t do something to increase their sales, they may be forced to leave Delaware.
So what will come out of these new restaurants and stores being built? One concern that has risen is the issue of traffic. A traffic study conducted by Traffic Engineering Inc. showed that between 10,000 and 13,000 cars travel in the West Central Avenue area each day, with the peak times between 7-9am and 5-6pm. Preliminary development plans show that work related to the three outlots could include completion of a sidewalk along West Central Avenue as well as the installation of a traffic signal and additional lanes.
Covelli is also working on expanding more Panera cafes in Central Ohio. The next openings include two in the Delaware area – one in the city and one at the Route 36 exit off of interstate 71 – another in Heath, and a Gahanna café on North Hamilton Road. “We’d like to start doing more in Central Ohio,” said Covelli Enterprise Owner Sam Covelli.
However, some think that with all the local businesses in Delaware, the city should be careful with introducing more commercial chains. “I think any [restaurants] built after [Panera] may get out of hand and the city businesses may become too commercialized. I like some of these restaurants, but small businesses are cool too,” Ennis said. To add to that, Sean Hughes, Delaware‘s economic development coordinator thinks retail businesses will help Buehler‘s to prosper as a business. “Retail is really about an ecosystem,” “One retailer thrives off of another retailer, and Buehler’s needs some other retail out there to get foot traffic for them.”
In 12 neighborhood revitalization studies completed by other different cities in the state, 8 eight mentioned Panera as a target business to increase foot traffic to nearby businesses, he said.
Hughes estimated that a Panera would bring 55 new jobs to Delaware along with a payroll of $500,000 to $1 million, which would result in at least $13,800 in yearly income taxes. Hughes also presented council with Buehler’s numbers to illustrate what the city would lose out on if the grocery store and the adjoining Ace Hardware were to shut down. The store currently employs about 250 employees and brings in a minimum of $55,000 in income taxes each year.
So what do you think Buehler’s can do to improve its business? Do you think Panera is the right way to go or do you think something else should be done? And what about Delaware’s reputation for local businesses? Do you think those are an important asset to the city or do you believe its time to start building in more commercialized businesses?
NOTE: Some of this info is cited from thisweeksnews.com