A duo of big-name restaurant franchises is anticipated to infuse new life into the heart of Sampson County, with work beginning in earnest this week on transforming an old bank building on Sunset Avenue into a Dunkin’ Brands one-stop shop that will include Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins.
Peter Patel talked about the venture as he stood at the standalone structure at 925 Sunset Ave., Clinton, previous location of the old Southern Bank & Trust, situated between the post office and Ribeyes Steakhouse within the Coharie Plaza.
On a balmy Friday afternoon, as traffic rambled nearby along the under-construction Sunset Avenue (N.C. 24), a crew was hard at work on erecting parapets on the roof of the structure. Patel, walking along the site with his brother-in-law and business operations manager Maulik Patel, said he was anxious to get to work.
He filed paperwork with the City of Clinton months ago to start developing the site, but work was thwarted by an old vault inside the bank building. When special chemicals didn’t eat away at the steel, it took heavy machinery to slowly chisel away at the vault — a couple Bobcats were sacrificed, Patel conceded — before it could be removed.
That finally happened on Wednesday. Then the real work began.
Patel said it usually takes about 60 days to get the restaurant built and operational from a “dark shell,” with the facade overhauled and the entire interior outfitted. There will also be outdoor patio seating to go along with a drive-thru. Now that work is moving, he said people will be surprised at how quick things happen.
Patel is no stranger to being a franchisee. He owns a number of Subways restaurants, including seven in Fayetteville and the one in Roseboro, where he also runs Shreeji Storage. Dunkin’ Brands is his newest venture. Along with the Clinton location, he is establishing Dunkin’ Brands restaurants in Whiteville and Elizabethtown.
“We’re going to build some of these small towns up,” said Patel, who operates out of Fayetteville, at his first Subway’s Ramsey Street location.
Dunkin’ Brands includes more than 12,500 Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants and nearly 8,000 Baskin-Robbins restaurants. Dunkin’ Donuts, founded in Quincy, Mass., in 1950, is famous for its combination of high-quality coffees, espresso beverages, baked goods and breakfast sandwiches served all day. Baskin-Robbins, founded in Glendale, Calif. in 1945, is iconic for its variety of “31 flavors” of ice cream — the flavor portfolio has expanded to 1,300 — along with ice cream cakes, milkshakes, sundaes and beverages.
Patel said Dunkin’s coffee and Baskin-Robbins’ sweets will be crowd pleasers. The coffee is proven and “everyone has a sweet tooth,” he said.
“It’s going to be the biggest hit in town,” Patel said emphatically. “Everything I build is top-notch. We invest our money, we don’t blow it. We take pride in what we do. I want families to be able to come to my businesses and enjoy themselves in a nice establishment.”
Coharie Plaza recently lost Papa John’s to closure, and Patel sees this business as more than filling that void.
The new businesses under the same roof will mean employment too. He said they will be looking to hire 50 to 60 employees to start. Once the operation gets going, that will likely be whittled down a bit, but full-time employment alone will still be around 30 people.
“We’re going to hire as many people as we can get,” he stated. Even if they aren’t needed at the Sunset Avenue location, they could be spread out to others.
Patel said he is anticipating a late August opening for the Dunkin’ store in Clinton, in line with the 60-day timetable for construction. When he went to file paperwork with the City of Clinton earlier this year, he said people were welcoming, helpful and enthusiastic about what was ahead.
“Everybody was excited. I know this is going to be good,” Patel said of the reception for Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins. “We might have to put another one on the other side (of town).”
Managing Editor Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 2587.