‘Pizza theater’ coming soon to Jordan

Domino’s in Clinton is the site of sweeping renovations that will see it double in size at its familiar corner in Jordan Shopping Plaza, while also offering sit-down dining. The expanded and renovated Domino’s is anticipated to open its doors in June.

Domino’s is attempting to broaden its customer base through a “pizza theater” makeover that introduces an interactive experience, pizza by the slice and sit-down dining — and the location at Jordan Shopping Plaza in Clinton is among those leading the way.

It will change the face not only of the company, but build its local presence within the plaza while contributing to the late-night dining experience in this community, plaza and franchise owners said.

A tenant of the Jordan Plaza since November 1988, Domino’s has been owned and operated by franchisee Cindy Byrd since 1992. Jordan Plaza developer Billy Ray Jordan called Byrd a “first-class tenant,” and said the renovations speak to the business’ past success and bode well for its future.

“That’s why we’re trying to keep her happy,” Jordan said of Byrd. The two sat down, along with Plaza co-owners Michael and Marshall Lindsay, recently to talk about the project, which will see a new and improved Domino’s unveiled at the shopping center this summer.

Domino’s saw its Clinton origins at a 1,200 square-feet space within the shopping center before moving to its current spot on the corner, just across from First Citizens Bank. While it was just a small jump in size — it is currently 1,500 square feet — the corner, at 304 Northeast Blvd., gave the pizza place much more visibility.

The new project will only assist in that regard, doubling the space while making it more accessible to the public, they said.

“For years and years, we thought it was a shame that Cindy could not have a dining room, a place for birthday parties, meetings, whatever,” said Jordan. “Domino’s was dead-set against that, and would not let us do it. Finally, about a year ago, they had a change of heart and today dining rooms are permissible.”

The company is actually encouraging current franchises to make the transition.

According to company officials, the re-imagined store’s pizza theater design “allows flexibility for a number of elements otherwise unheard of when it comes to the traditional Domino’s store.” Highlights include a comfortable lobby, open-area viewing of the food preparation process and the ability to track carryout orders electronically on a lobby screen. The store also features chalkboards to allow customers to express their creativity or leave feedback for the store team members.

Ever since the company announcement of the “pizza theater” push was made about a year ago, the Jordan Plaza brain trust — Jordan and the Lindsays — have been working closely with Byrd.

“We first started talking about it in probably June or July last year,” Michael Lindsay noted.

With renovations now underway, the new and improved Domino’s is anticipated to open a year later.

“She’ll be operating sometime in June, early June we hope,” Jordan said. “Truthfully, this will mean everything to Domino’s here. It really, really will. You can believe we’re excited about this.”

“My employees are excited too,” Byrd added.

In essence, the project will double the size of Domino’s from 1,500 square feet to 3,000 by expanding into the current space occupied by Nails & Spa next door. The vacant space next to Nails & Spa will be split into two separate 1,500 square-foot spaces, with the new nail salon taking the one next to a larger Domino’s.

“It will still be by Domino’s, just moved over one door,” Lindsay pointed out. “We think that will be a little easier to rent the next available space, between (Nails & Spa) and (Eastern Chinese). It will be a little smaller, a little more affordable, so we’re actively looking to fill that spot as well.”

Nails & Spa, operated by Vietnamese couple Bien Tran and Thy Luong, has been in the plaza for seven years and just signed another five-year lease. The project for them will mean a nice upgrade, a little more space and enhanced lighting.

Lindsay said a significant investment was being made through the project and he was glad it had progressed to the point that an announcement could be made. It is a much deserved move for Domino’s and its leader Byrd, who have been loyal to the plaza through the years, he and brother Marshall said.

“They’ve been such a good tenant over all these years,” said Michael Lindsay. “I didn’t have a spot in the shopping center that would fit them any better than that corner so we negotiated with the nail shop people to move them over to accommodate Cindy being in the same location and getting the extra space she needed.”

His cousin echoed those sentiments.

“We’re glad to have Cindy and Domino’s continue to be part of Jordan Plaza, and we look forward to her improvements and wish her much continued success,” said Marshall Lindsay. “We’re just happy to have her.”

An employee of Domino’s for nearly 30 years, Byrd said she was excited to offer innovation through the company, and a more inviting and immersive experience for its customers as a result.

Once the expansion is complete, Byrd said, 34 sit-down diners will be able to be accommodated, along with the continued take-out and delivery services. There will be two entrances at the front, one as it is today leading to the pick-up lobby and another going into the dining room, where there will be televisions, as well as free wifi available to customers.

“We will have a hot-hold unit so there will be pizza by the slice, salads, and more items that people can come in and get without having to wait,” Byrd said. “Domino’s is moving in that direction and they want us, as franchisees, to get on board with that idea as opposed to just remodeling the lobby.”

As of today, while there are a few new Domino’s scattered around the country — Byrd notes locations in Clayton and Raleigh — even those are not as large in scope as what is being undertaken in Clinton, she said.

“It’s just moving us forward,” said Byrd. “It’s totally different. I don’t really even know what to expect myself.”

Domino’s in Clinton currently employs approximately 25 full-time and part-time employees. That number will definitely grow, Byrd attests.

“We’re actually as busy as we’ve ever been,” said Byrd, noting that the swell of new customers is expected to only add to success the pizza chain has enjoyed locally. “I know we need at least a dozen more employees if not a little more,”

The restaurant is open from 10:30 a.m. until midnight Sunday through Thursday, and until 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Those take-out and delivery hours will be the same for dine-in.

“That will give the people of Clinton an option for late-night dining that they don’t have,” Lindsay said. “To actually go in and sit somewhere locally, other than McDonald’s. We’re excited that it will bring more customers into the shopping center for a longer period of time.”

It is another big step for a plaza that has strived to keep moving forward with the times.

“We try really hard to maintain a modern, viable center that is a draw for this side of town, to give people a destination on the eastern side (of Clinton),” Michael Lindsay commented. “There’s been so much growth on the western side. We actively promote our shopping center. We’re active in the community and the tenants represent a wide variety — a little medical, a lot of retail, restaurants — and we’re looking to improve our variety even more.”

That will include filling the old Hardee’s building, but not until the time is right and the situation is perfect for Jordan Plaza.

“We’re really peculiar about our tenants and who we lease to,” said Jordan, who noted some deals with big-name restaurants have come close but not panned out. “We’re waiting for the right person. We turn people down every day because of what we want in it.”