An impending move for the McDonald’s across from the former Rolling Acres mall to a site off Interstate 77 should significantly boost sales, its owner said.
Owner/operator Tom Locke has bought two parcels off Vernon Odom Boulevard — the former White Castle and former Red Barn restaurant and auto parts store — to relocate the restaurant. The location is visible and accessible from I-77.
“We’ve got the highway there,” said Locke. “There’s a lot of churches and businesses open there. It just has more traffic. That’s what dictates our business. We capture the business and traffic that’s already there or going by the market.”
Locke knew eight years ago when he bought the Romig Road location that he wanted to move the restaurant. At the time, the mall was still open with a food court but was on the decline, Locke said.
It has taken those eight years to find a suitable site. In that time, the mall has since closed and traffic in the area has significantly declined, he said.
The inside of the mall closed in 2008 and has had a series of different owners. Summit County this fall started foreclosure proceedings against the current owner, Premier Ventures. The company owes more than $1.1 million in back taxes to the county and a lien holder.
Since Locke was actively looking for a new location for the last eight years, he acknowledges that he didn’t put any money into renovating the current location.
“That’s probably one of the lowest volume stores in Northeast Ohio,” said Locke. “It has not been fun to be the owner of the store. The new store is projected to do at least 50 percent more” in sales.
While the newly acquired parcels, less than an acre, are smaller than what McDonald’s would normally like, Locke said they will make it work. There will be the newest design and a dual drive-thru, he said. The new location will also have a third drive-up window, a new concept being employed by McDonald’s to replace customers pulling into a parking spot if they need to wait for their order.
Locke estimates he will spend about $2 million on the building. McDonald’s purchased the property and Locke will lease it. Similarly, McDonald’s owns the existing Romig Road property and will raze it (though Locke has to pay the demolition costs) after his new restaurant opens.
Groundbreaking is scheduled for December with the new store to open in March. Locke said he will increase the employee number from 30 to about 45 to 50 at the new location.
“The footprint will be smaller, but volume will be larger,” he said.
The new location will mark having McDonald’s outlets on consecutive highway exits. A McDonald’s at the Copley Road one exit north of Vernon Odom Boulevard is owned by John Blickle. His company, Rubber City McDonalds, owns the largest number of McDonald’s in the Akron area at 20.
Both Locke and Blickle said there are other instances where McDonald’s approved restaurants on consecutive highway exits.
“There’s probably enough business for the two of us,” said Blickle, who added that Locke’s move from Romig Road makes absolute sense.
Locke’s McDonald’s franchise operations have also grown. Since buying his first franchise — a location in Canal Fulton — in 2000, Locke now has 10.
He employs between 400 to 450 and recently moved his headquarters for the firm called TomTreyco Inc. to Uniontown.
His locations include two on Manchester Road, one in Coventry Township and the city of New Franklin, plus Canal Fulton, Hartville, Plain Township, two in the Canton area and Minerva.
His newest location is on East Market Street in Akron, across the street from City Hospital. Locke purchased the location in early October from Rosie Perez, a single-store operator who built the store 16 years ago. Perez retired, Locke said.
Locke plans to upgrade the lobby and wants to create a second drive-thru lane for the restaurant.
“It’s a good volume store,” he said. Renovations will happen before the Vernon Odom Boulevard store opens in March, he said.
In the next few years, Locke said he also has plans to update the facade of the building.
As a near downtown location, Locke said the business’s patterns are slightly different from others.
It does very well Monday through Friday and is slower on weekends.
“I think it has a lot to do with the hospital. It’s more of a business center than the rural stores,” he said.
Locke declined to disclose the sale price.
At 52, Locke said he’s looking for more opportunities to grow.