Randolph County’s cravings for Guthrie’s chicken fingers will soon be satisfied.
After several delays in construction and preparation, the much-anticipated Guthrie’s restaurant on the corner of Highway 431 and Highway 22 in Roanoke will finally open its doors Tuesday of next week.
“We’re excited to be here and excited to get going,” said Brian Pester, one of the partners in the ownership group that brought the franchise to town.
Plans for the store have been in the works for over a year, and the opening has been delayed multiple times after initial hopes for a start date sometime last fall.
The hangup has been a combination of things, but the most significant delays came from the restaurant’s attachment to the T-Mobile project right next door.
Pester and his partners Chris and Denise Clark, who bought the corner lot that is home to both of the businesses, had to work through re-negotiations with T-Mobile after that company’s parameters for the planned store changed.
“When it went through the higher-ups at T-Mobile the market cap area for this had changed. The dollars and cents didn’t add up for their investment for that, so we had to go back and re-work the deal,” Pester said.
The Guthrie’s location was mostly ready months ago, but because the two stores share the same parking lot, Pester and the Clarks had to show patience for the completion of the other building.
“T-Mobile is a huge corporation and when it got kicked back, it had to start back over. Guthrie’s got built on schedule, but it led to us not being able to do the parking lot because of construction on the new building,” Pester added.
The finishing touches are being put on the T-Mobile construction this week, however, and Pester (who is not associated with the operation of that store) believes it will be worth the wait. The T-Mobile location is a corporate store, not a franchise. That means that the operators of that location are direct employees of T-Mobile, and the store will offer essentially all of the devices and services that the company offers.
Pester acknowledged that when a construction site sits dormant for a couple of months – especially one as visible as the Guthrie’s location – rumors start to fly.
“We were at a standstill, but nothing with our commitment to here had changed or anything like that,” Pester said. “It wasn’t a monetary thing. I heard people say we ran out of money. I heard people say we did this or that. That wasn’t the case. It was just all business, logistics and weather.”
The Roanoke Guthrie’s is part of a larger expansion effort for that company as well. It’s the second store owned by Pester and the Clarks after their Lanett store opened a couple of years ago. They also have plans to open in Dadeville, Alexander City and two locations in LaGrange. Pester said their stores account for six of the estimated 20 stores that Guthrie’s plans to open over the next year and a half.
They have already hired their general manager, and they conducted interviews for remaining staff positions last week and this week after they received over 70 applications for 30-35 open positions.
They even got a Monday visit from Joe Guthrie, the son of the founder of the company and a hands-on executive who helps pick all of the locations for the stores.
“Home run. His exact words. Home run,” Pester said. “He said the traffic count is tremendous, location’s great, loved this corner lot. Nothing bad at all to say about it. This is the first and only site that he looked at in Roanoke. We didn’t have another location picked out.”
Roanoke’s store will be open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. for the dining room and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. for the drive through. The menu for Guthrie’s has four basic items (in addition to an assortment of sauces) – chicken fingers, french fries, toast and slaw.
“All we do is chicken fingers, but we’re really good at it,” Pester said.