New restaurants slated to open this fall Smoothie King, Chili's and Panera Bread

By Dawn Schabbing | Monday, July 17, 2017

Smoothie King
Effingham Assistant Fire Chief and Fire Prevention Specialist Matt Kulesza said checking on new construction is only a part of his responsibilities.

Effingham has more than 1,200 businesses, and each one gets an inspection annually, but those under construction will get several checks while undergoing renovation or a new build.

So, with work on three new businesses underway in Effingham, Kulesza has been busy checking and assisting contractors. Chili's, Smoothie King and Panera Bread are undergoing construction or remodeling.

"On construction projects, I try hitting every site by appointment, on the average of at least four times," said Kulesza.

He added that the larger projects will warrant more visits. He wants to be proactive on projects, so not to slow down progress on construction.

On Monday, he was looking over building design plans at what is currently only a shell that will hold Smoothie King, located next to Famous Footwear on Ford Avenue. Kulesza said he was working with Kevin Chambers of KCH Mechanical, discussing the fire dampers in the HVAC system. It's expected to open in early October.

According to the company's website, the founder started blending healthy options to combat his food allergies. Smoothie King offers smoothies to help those working out, wanting to slim down, or find a nutritious balance in their daily diet. There are 800 locations across three continents.

"Doing (these inspections) now gives contractors time to discuss any issues or concerns early on, so it can be done properly the first time," said Kulesza.

Kulesza said he's been pleased with the companies he's been working with on these projects, such as on a renovation job of the former Ruby Tuesday, soon to become Chili's, at 1300 Avenue of Mid-America.

Chili's is coming along, and the team there is working well with the city, Kulesza said. Contracted to do the renovation is Zernco Inc. of Wichita, Kansas.

Curt Morgan, project superintendent at Chili's, said Zernco Inc., which is doing the extensive remodeling, is expected to turn the building over to its owners sometime around Sept. 11. He added the renovation is a $1 million project.

Approximately seven days later, it should be ready, with the staff trained and ready to go for its opening on or about Sept. 18.

"As we get a little further along, they will start hiring and so some training at a local hotel and then use that final seven days for training inside the restaurant," said Morgan.

With the skills of the Zernco crew, the exterior and interior of the building will be much different than Ruby Tuesday, in order to keep with the standard look Chili's provides.

"The exterior of the building will be different with tile and stucco, plus some different awnings will be installed," said Morgan. "The kitchen will be totally different. There will be a lot more equipment in Chili's kitchen than what was here."

Those familiar with Ruby Tuesday will walk into a different seating arrangement and the bar will be relocated to a different position, Morgan said. He added that there will be all new rooftop units in place, new front doors will be installed, windows will stay, but coverings inside and awnings outside will be changed.

Kulesza said the Panera Bread project is also well underway on Keller Drive, near Panda Express.

"It has the metal structure built and are waiting on carpenters to start framing up the walls. It will have plenty of parking and a drive-through," Kulesza said.

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Dawn Schabbing

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