Sonic to Return to Piggott
It's good news for Piggott residents who are lovers of "Happy Hour" as plans are now underway to build a new Sonic restaurant in the city. Last week the sale of the former Shell station, located on the northeast corner of East Main and Thornton Avenue, was finalized. Acquiring the property from Max Mayberry, of Piggott, was the firm Davis, Hull and Rowden, LLC, based in Heber Springs. The company, which owns and operates some two dozen Sonics, plans to build a new restaurant on the site in the next 12 to 18 months.
The former Sonic in Piggott was first opened in the late 1970s and closed last spring for remodeling. But, the building was deemed too costly to repair by the owner, who also owned and operated the Rector store and another in West Plains, Mo. In August Davis, Hull and Rowden purchased the Rector location and the franchise rights to the Piggott site.
In the months since great improvements have been made at Rector, while the search for a suitable construction site began for the Piggott location. On Tuesday, March 17, the deal was closed with the company purchasing the former service station and lot. The location had been the site of Main Street Texaco for many years, was later a Shell Station, and more recently was occupied by Jerry Lewis' used car dealership. The local realtor handling the transaction was Todd Watson, of Watson Real Estate.
In order to facilitate the sale, Mayberry was required to have the underground fuel tanks removed and the site inspected by the EPA. Earlier this year the approval from the federal agency was received, allowing the sale to proceed.
On Friday the company principal, Rick Davis, spoke about the plans for the site and the firm which will own and operate the new Sonic. "We closed on the property this week, and we're very excited to get the location," he noted. "We've been looking for some time and felt this was the perfect spot."
Davis explained the company had two years to either build a new Sonic in Piggott, or relinquish the franchise rights, from the time they signed the paperwork in August.
In reviewing the plans, he also noted the company has been more than pleased with the Rector location, and expected more success with the Piggott site. "We checked out the Rector location first, and since the facility is only about 12 years old all it really needed was a little TLC," he added. "We brought in some of our people and things have done well-we've increased our sales by 100 percent in the months since."
Davis, along with his partners, have a wealth of experience in the business and decided to join forces in 2000 and formed the company the following year. "My partners are David Hull of Poyen and Greg Rowden of Searcy and we've all owned and operated Sonics for a long time," Davis explained. "In fact, I've got about 38 years in and Greg has 36 years, we've got a lot of experience."
The extensive experience has been a great advantage to the firm, as it has now grown to 24 stores and has developed a reputation as one of the top groups in the country. And, the company continues to grow as they've acquired locations in Helena-West Helena, Dumas and Brinkley. "Recently we also closed the deal on acreage at the corner of Highway 49 and School Street in Brookland, and we'll be building a new facility at that location in the coming months," Davis added. "We should break ground in May and expect to have the project finished by the end of August."
But, the rapid rate of growth the firm is enjoying also will mean a bit of a delay for the local project. "We'd like to get on it right away, we just have too many projects ahead of it right now," Davis explained. "But, we will continue with our plans and by this time next year the construction phase should be well underway."
Davis indicated the new Sonic would employ between 40 and 50 people, and noted the company expected the location to do well. Currently the 24 restaurants belonging to the firm each generate over $1.5 million each year, although some are even more successful. "The Piggott site was evaluated by Sonic corporate, and all indications are we'll do well at this location, too," he added.
He also noted much of the prosperity the company has enjoyed has been due to the quality of their employees. "We have a good company, and great employees, and we operate on Christian principles," he explained. "And, we believe in rewarding those who make it possible--such as our managers, who are all involved in a profit sharing program." At their restaurants Davis noted managers earn in excess of $50,000 per year, "and there are some who are making six figures," he added.
Based on the success of the company, and its restaurants, it's difficult to argue the concept. In fact, in 2009 the company's Sonic at the Highway 5 exit at Cabot was deemed to be the cleanest Sonic Restaurant in the land. That's correct, the facility was chosen as the cleanest among all of the Sonics in the United States. In recognition, the owners were honored at the national convention in Las Vegas.
"Currently we have a number of people from Piggott working at the Rector location," Davis added. "Going forward we'll continue to train people in our other facilities and start to prepare for the future of the Piggott site."
Although the timetable has not yet been established, the former service station building will be demolished in the coming months and site preparation will begin. Currently Davis indicates the firm is not sure what design will be utilized for the new restaurant, but will be providing more details in the future.