FORT VALLEY -- A sandy-colored, embossed Coca-Cola sign is mounted in front of a new Wendys that opened recently.
Its one way owner Danny Strickland said he has paid homage to the old Coke bottling building he demolished for his new business. Thousands of customers crowded Fort Valleys first Wendys last week, including a couple who pushed against its location.
Im glad they kept the sign, but the building had to go, said Florence Amica, a customer. You cant keep everything.
In August, City Council voted to allow Strickland, owner of two other Middle Georgia Wendys, to demolish an old Coke building. The decision went against the Historic Preservation Commission and a group of residents.
Connie Rainey, a member of the historic commission, said she and another member visited the new Wendys for coffee and enjoyed Stricklands efforts to honor the community.
Were obviously disappointed that the Coke building has been demolished, but Mr. Strickland really has done a very nice job of incorporating a lot of Coca-Cola memorabilia, she said.
Strickland and Mayor John Stumbo previously said the new fast food restaurant meant development and jobs for the small city.
In support of the project, Stumbo and his wife paid from their personal accounts to remove and mount the Coca-Cola sign near the road. At night, it lights up.
I was looking for a connection to the former building and the history of it, Stumbo said. We couldnt keep the old facade, but at least we could do that.
Besides the Coca-Cola sign, Strickland also has hung historical photos of Fort Valley inside the restaurant.
We made a big effort to make everybody happy, Strickland said.
The first Blue Bird bus is pictured above the current model. Photos of the company over the years hang in the same corner. There are jerseys from three Peach County High School state championship wins and a couple from Fort Valley State University. Coke bottles from the old plant are featured in a shadow box.
They did a really nice job of incorporating Fort Valley history, and I really like what they did with the sign out front, Rainey said.
Strickland hasnt received any complaints or calls about the old building. One customer has noted the traffic on Camellia Boulevard needed direction as the cars from the drive thru flowed into the street.
Strickland said the traffic will calm down as customers find their routine with the new restaurant, and the new employees fill orders faster.
At the peak of lunch Thursday, it took about 15 minutes to get a meal. But customers didnt appear frustrated.
The food was fast, Amica said.
Strickland has hired 51 employees, 20 of whom are full time. He said the pool of 400 applicants included college and high school students.
You couldnt ask for a better base of employees, Strickland said.
The owner of his third Wendys is proud and especially excited to have a new Coca-Cola machine that dispenses more than 120 drinks. Customers use the touch-screen to navigate its menu.
I just love sitting and watching them play with that thing, Strickland said.
To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9785.