Friday, May 04, 2001

Chain raises hopes in Dry Ridge

Cracker Barrel plans to open restaurant in struggling outlet mall

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        DRY RIDGE, Ky. — The owner of an Interstate 75 outlet mall is hoping that a popular Southern-style restaurant can attract new customers as well as retailers.

        Cracker Barrel, a national chain of restaurants known for Southern-style breakfasts and dinners, will start construction in June on a restaurant in the Dry Ridge Outlet Mall in Grant County.

        Cracker Barrel restaurants in other parts of Kentucky serve up to 1 million people a year, said Dan Baker, president of Sugar Oak Corp., the Herndon, Va.-based company that purchased the mall three months ago.

        “Cracker Barrel adds a food service piece that the mall has needed for a long time,” Mr. Baker said Thursday. “They are terrific complement for what we already have at the site ... and obviously for the retailers this is something that will bring additional shoppers into the property.”

        Sugar Oak is also negotiating with national retailers to locate outlet stores in the mall, which sits just off I-75 about 20 minutes south of Florence Mall.

        Though Nike and Liz Claiborne operate stores in the outlet mall, the facility has had problems attracting business in recent years. Several stores have closed, leaving vacant spaces behind. Sugar Oak specializes in turning around distressed retail properties, according to the firm's Web site.

        In addition to wooing Cracker Barrel and new retailers, Sugar Oak is erecting a new 120-foot sign for the mall and advertising on billboards along I-75.

        “Cracker Barrel is great news for the mall,” said Wade Gutman, executive director of the Grant County Chamber of Commerce. “The mall's been struggling, but this is something that can really help turn the mall around because (Cracker Barrel) attracts so many people off the highway.”


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