Grand Forks’ restaurant row: Chain restaurants flock to 32nd Avenue SouthThe bustling 32nd Avenue South retail corridor in Grand Forks continues to grow, now with a slew of chain restaurant openings.
The bustling 32nd Avenue South retail corridor in Grand Forks continues to grow, now with a slew of chain restaurant openings.
An Olive Garden is under construction on the site of the demolished Columbia 4 movie theater. A Ruby Tuesday is nearing completion south of 32nd near Interstate 29. A remodeling project is under way on the westernmost suite of the Menards strip mall to make way for a Pizza Ranch.
Willmar, Minn.-based Border States Management is purchasing a site that will house Noodles & Co. and Old Chicago, a pizza restaurant. Both restaurants are to open next year. Ted Horan, managing partner of Border States Management, would not disclose the site’s location, but the company was believed to be interested in land near Columbia Mall and 32nd Avenue South.
“We think it’s a great market,” Horan said. “There is a very strong Canadian influence in the market and it’s a great college, university town. The market has been affected by the economy, but there is still a demand for new restaurants there.”
A JL Beers bar and grill opened in a new brick building along South Columbia Road in August, joining the chain’s locations in Fargo and West Fargo.
“Grand Forks is an hour away from Fargo,” Lance Thorson, a partner in the chain, said when the Grand Forks location opened. “We thought it was the next logical place to go. I’ve noticed new franchises coming in with Olive Garden, Ruby Tuesday and Pizza Ranch. But I think there’s still room for growth.”
Many of the chains coming to Grand Forks, including Olive Garden, Noodles & Company, Old Chicago, Ruby Tuesday, Pizza Ranch and JL Beers, already have Fargo locations.
Hal Gershman, president of the Grand Forks City Council and owner of the Happy Harry’s Bottle Shops chain, which has locations in Grand Forks and Fargo, said it makes sense for many businesses to have locations in both cities.
“Grand Forks is a really, really viable market,” Gershman said. “More businesses are starting to realize that. I think the word is out. You will probably see more Fargo businesses looking for expansion opportunities in Grand Forks.”
While adding restaurants already in the Fargo market does little to differentiate the two communities, Barry Wilfahrt, president and CEO of The Chamber of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, said the additions should help reduce leakage to the Fargo market.
“Anytime we have additional retail growth it makes us more attractive as a destination city and to Canadian visitors,” Wilfahrt said.
Gershman said the influence of Canadian shoppers has helped lead to restaurant and other retail growth in the community.
He said strong sales numbers at Red Lobster, helped by strong Canadian traffic, were the tipping point that helped Grand Forks attract an Olive Garden despite its relatively small population base. The Olive Garden and Red Lobster brands are both managed by Darden Restaurants group.
“Businesses are looking for good places to expand,” Gershman said. “We have more shopping per capita than most places because of the Canadian market. It is changing the projections of businesses when they look at our population and then look at the sales of existing businesses.”
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