The local franchisees are taking a corner space at 2816 W. 47th Ave., Kansas City, Kan., in the former Fairway North Shopping Center, which is being revamped as NorthWood Shopping Center.
“They are the first new tenant in the rebranded shopping center. It says a lot about that area that it attracted a first-to-market concept,” said Devin Schuster, vice president at Lane4 Property Group, which is redeveloping the center.
Andrew Johnson, managing partner for the area franchise group, grew up on Gus’s in Memphis and describes it as “crispy, spicy and consistently good.”
So when the company announced expansion plans, he quickly signed up. He selected the Kansas City market, where he has family, and he moved here in January to begin scouting sites. The location on 47th Avenue is near Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que and Taco Republic, both in Kansas City, Kan., and Lulu’s Asian Bistro on the Westwood side of the street, all strong operations offering different cuisine.
Gus’s plans a late summer or early fall opening in the 3,400-square-foot spot, which will have a patio. The restaurant will have about 40 employees.
The iconic fried chicken chain now has 10 locations and is expanding. Along with the new Kansas City, Kan., restaurant, it will open locations in St. Louis, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Fort Worth, Knoxville and Detroit, this year and in 2016. Once it “proves itself” at the new Kansas City, Kan., location it could open another restaurant in the metro, company officials said.
The first Gus’s opened in 1984, serving chicken with “just enough cayenne pepper to let you know it’s there,” according to one reviewer. Other menu items include baked beans, fried green tomatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy, fried okra and slaw. Gus’s doesn’t serve fast food, so customers should be prepared to wait or order ahead.
It also will offer some competition for Kansas City’s iconic chicken restaurant, Stroud’s. But Mike Donegan — owner of the Northland Stroud’s and partner in the other area locations — said there’s enough business for both operations.
Westport Panera shutting down
After nearly two decades, the Westport Panera Bread is closing.
Area franchisee Original Bread Inc. plans to shut down the location, at 4117 Mill St., at the close of business May 19. It is offering the employees positions at its other 25 area locations.
Eric Cole, vice president of operations, said the lease and franchise agreement for the Westport location will be expiring soon. That, combined with the “decline of available, acceptable parking for our guests, has led us to make this decision.”
The Westport location opened in April 1997 under the chain’s original name of St. Louis Bread Co. It is tucked away behind a prominent parking lot in the heart of Westport, between Pennsylvania Avenue and Mill Street.
But now that lot is under development for three operations — Insomnia Cookies, Pickleman’s Gourmet Cafe and Qdoba Mexican Grill — that will block the view of Panera Bread and other establishments from Westport Road. It also will take away about 30 parking spaces.
Cole said sales at the Westport restaurant already have dropped in the last couple of years as more and more operations open up in the area and parking spots become harder to come by.
“Parking is getting tighter and tighter and tighter. The average consumer is not going to drive around looking for a parking space when they are on their lunch hour,” Cole said. “It’s a shame because we have been there for so long.”
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