Hearing Held on New Piggott Sonic

Thursday, May 11, 2017
Scott Davis, with Davis, Hull and Rowden, LLC, outlines the plans for the new Sonic at Friday's hearing at Piggott City Hall.(TD photo/Tim Blair)

A public hearing was held Friday, May 5, at Piggott City Hall on a rezoning request by the firm Davis, Hull and Rowden, LLC. The company had asked for a structural variance on the lot at 310 East Main Street as part of their plans for building a new Sonic restaurant on the site. The request was heard by board of adjustment members Frank Staples and Tom Sneed, although the newest member, Jason Simpson, was unable to attend.

“We're very excited to be here, and we're looking forward to having a store in Piggott,” supervising partner Scott Davis told the board. He was accompanied by Bryon Roberson with the contractor for the project, Diversified Construction and Design, which is based in El Dorado.

The plans to build a new Sonic were first announced in March of 2015, as the company acquired the former Shell station at the corner of East Main Street and North Thornton Avenue. Earlier, the firm had purchased the Rector location and the franchise rights to the Piggott store, which had already closed due to disrepair. The company, which owned and operated some 24 Sonics at the time, planned to begin construction sometime in 2016.

In the months which followed the lot was cleared, and in the time since it has remained vacant awaiting further action. Recently, the process resumed as city officials were contacted for consideration of the company's building plans for a new restaurant.

“We're up to 30 stores now in the state of Arkansas--and we're about to open one in Sommerville, Tenn.,” Davis offered. “We take pride in our stores, and we've been successful. But it all starts with the people. All of our management people have a stake in their stores, and have the opportunity to make bonuses on sales.”

Those in management positions also benefit from their hard work, as Davis noted average annual pay for those jobs range from $50 to $75 thousand dollars a year. In turn, assistant managers make in the $25 to $40 thousand dollars a year range, based on experience and sales.

“We expect to have four to six assistant managers and one manager overseeing the day to day operations,” Davis explained. “We're expecting to employ between 30 to 50 people at the Piggot site.”

He gave the board a brief history of the firm, which began when the three principles—all owners of Sonic restaurants--pooled their resources and formed the corporation. In the time since the company has continued to grow, and their locations now boast average sales of nearly two million dollars a year.

“We acquired the Rector location at the same time we bought the Piggott franchise, and at the time it was only doing about $450,000 a year in sales,” Davis explained. “We've been able to get that up over the million dollar mark, and we expect to do the same—or more—at the Piggott location.”

He noted the Piggott site had been carefully studied, and it was estimated around 1,000 vehicles pass the busy intersection each day. “That much traffic, and a good corner location, we're sure it's going to do well,” he surmised.

Davis indicated the firm has a number of restaurants in smaller markets, which serves them well.

“We're not afraid of smaller markets, and smaller cities,” he explained. “One of our best stories is in Quitman, and they've only got about 2,000 people.”

He noted much of the company success has been a result of investing time in the towns and cities where their restaurants are located.

“We're very big on community involvement, and we're very much involved with the school districts and local groups and organizations where we have locations,” he offered. “We're all about community involvement.”

The variance request pertains to the set-backs required for new construction. In order the maximize the potential of the lot, the company asked that the set-back be waived for an awning which will cover a dining area along North Thornton Avenue. A variance was also requested for the set-back on the east side, as the property will border an alley.

The design plans call for a 24 x 74 foot building to be constructed near the middle of the 200-foot-deep lot, with drive-in stalls on both the south and north side of the building. Access to the site would consist of a drive on North Thornton, just north of the intersection, and another along the alley to the east of the site. Two exits would be located on the north half of the lot, along North Thornton, as well.

The plans called for 20 drive-in stalls and another for drive-through orders. There will also be some 14 non-stall parking locations, some of which may be pressed into service in the future.

In order to be able to use the current plans, the company required a variance which would allow them to extend a canopy to within seven feet of the right-of-way. They also sought to have the set-back waived for the alley at the east of the site, which would remain open to traffic.

“I don't see any problems with your requests,” Staples told Davis following the hearing. “I think the biggest question people have had is just wanting to know when you folks are coming to town—we're glad to have you.”

Due to the absence of Simpson, the board of adjustments was expected to meet this week and vote on the variance. If approved, Davis noted things should progress quickly.

“Once we get the plans approved we'll get started pretty quick,” he offered. “Although we hope to have it done well before then, we've set a target date of Aug. 31, for completion.”

Roberson indicated there were still a few matters to address before they could begin, but noted the construction phase of the project will only last about 60 days once the work commences.

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