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VOL. 120 | NO. 244 | Wednesday, December 7, 2005

DeSoto Restaurant Market Takes Off

National eateries follow new retail to thriving county

By Tracy Adams

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UNDER WAY: Snowden Grove Towne Center developer Mike Ferguson oversees work at the coming retail development, which will include a mix of neighborhood retail and several new restaurants. -- Photograph By Tracy Adams

Five years ago, DeSoto County's list of places to dine wasn't that impressive. But today, choices abound.

With more than 1 million square feet of retail space expected to be delivered in the next few years, coupled with the construction of several new subdivisions, it's no wonder the dining options available to DeSoto County residents are increasing exponentially.

Rapid growth. The most recent additions to the county's list of eateries can be found in Southaven, where commercial and retail growth is most rapid. In less than three months, four new national restaurant chains - Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Logan's Roadhouse and Smokey Bones BBQ - have opened their doors just south of Goodman Road in phase one of the new Southaven Towne Center.

In phase two of the open-air mall, the list will include Fox & Hound Pub & Grille, Lonestar Steakhouse & Saloon and Cayenne Moon, a restaurant specializing in New Orleans-style cuisine.

"When the first few restaurants moved in on Goodman Road, they fared very well, setting company records," said Southaven Mayor Greg Davis. "And those that have opened most recently have also set records within their corporations.

"Developers and national chains are discovering what we in Southaven always knew. We don't want to go to Memphis. We want to eat and shop at home in Southaven, in DeSoto County."

Small-town past. Before the deluge of restaurants, the most well-known place to go for a "special night out" was Timbeaux's on the Square in downtown Hernando, said Chuck Roberts, Timbeaux's part-owner and CEO of Chuck Roberts Commercial Realty.

"Of course we want people to continue to come to Timbeaux's, and I think they will. We have a good following, but the more restaurants we have in DeSoto County, the better it is for DeSoto County," said Roberts, who also serves as board chairman for the DeSoto County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

More retail and the restaurants that follow are planned for Southaven in the next few years, said Whitney Choat, Southaven city planner.

"Developers and national chains are discovering what we in Southaven always knew. We don't want to go to Memphis. We want to eat and shop at home in Southaven, in DeSoto County."
- Greg Davis
mayor, Southaven

New projects. Dirt work is under way on DeSoto Pointe - a major open-air shopping center that will be located south of Church Road near Interstate 55 in Southaven, she said.

DeSoto Pointe, developed by Olive Branch-based Utley Properties and Memphis-based Trezevant Realty Corp., is expected to deliver about 1.4 million square feet of retail space by spring 2007.

The 144-acre development will have five anchor stores, including McRae's - a Saks Fifth Avenue subsidiary - as the first announced tenant. Several smaller shops and a handful of places to dine are planned for the development, said Mark Utley, president of Utley properties and co-developer of Snowden Grove Towne Square, a smaller retail development also under construction in Southaven that promises two additional new restaurants.

Snowden Grove Towne Square is a 108,900-square-foot section of the larger 310-acre Snowden Grove development, located north of Church Road and east of Getwell Road adjacent to the city-owned Snowden Grove Baseball Fields.

The development is designed to resemble a historic town square. Its design calls for several split-level buildings with office or retail space on the lower level and living space above, said Mike Ferguson, co-developer of Snowden Grove Towne Center and a partner in McCullar Ferguson Realty LLC.

Neighborhood attraction. Snowden Grove Towne Center, which is situated on property zoned neighborhood commercial, still has retail space available, and its developers are interested in attracting businesses that will be "neighborhood friendly," Ferguson said.

"We're talking to a day spa, an ice cream franchise and some who are interested in office space," he said. "The Towne Center is designed with an eye toward being more family-friendly than most developments. That's the Snowden Grove theme, and we wanted to stay true to that."

About 11,000 square feet of the total 31,000 square feet of space available in Towne Center will be delivered in January, Ferguson said.

Memphis brands. Those 11,000 square feet will be divided between two restaurants planned for the project that are being developed by a pair of Downtown Memphis restaurateurs. Preston Lamm and James A. LoSapio of River City Management Group are planning to open a family-style barbecue place and an upscale steak house.

River City Management Group owns and manages five restaurants in the Memphis area, including Beale Street eateries Rum Boogie Cafe, King's Palace Cafe and The Pig on Beale.

The Pig at Snowden Grove, a Southern-style barbecue restaurant, and the Mesquite Chop House, an "upper-end casual" restaurant, are the first signed leases in the commercial section of the Snowden Grove development, Ferguson said.

The Pig at Snowden Grove will be more family-friendly than its Beale Street counterpart, said Lamm, River City Management Group president and CEO.

The Mesquite Chop House will feature artwork created by DeSoto County artists, showcase live jazz music on the weekends and offer an extensive wine list.

Development boom. The decision to expand to the DeSoto County market was an easy one considering the explosive commercial and residential growth the county has seen in the past five years, Lamm said.

Getwell and Church roads are two of the most heavily traveled thoroughfares in DeSoto County, with daily traffic counts of 20,000 and 25,000, respectively, according to 2004 data from the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

However, Southaven isn't the only DeSoto County municipality experiencing growth in its restaurant market, according the DeSoto County Tourism Association.

This year, nearly a dozen new restaurants, not including fast-food eateries, have opened in Horn Lake, Olive Branch and Hernando.

PROPERTY SALES 105 193 8,028
MORTGAGES 120 239 9,024
BUILDING PERMITS 192 445 17,512
BANKRUPTCIES 27 69 5,228