Something’s a little different about a small shopping center at 3780 Northside Drive near Tom Hill Sr. Boulevard in Macon.
Unlike a lot of shopping centers after most of its tenants move out, North Park II didn’t stay dormant long.
A restaurant opened in the North Park II center recently, and two other businesses plan to open there soon. Also, renovation work is under way at the former Barnes & Noble Booksellers location in Rivergate Center on Tom Hill Sr. Boulevard for Carol’s Linens, which announced in October it was moving into that location from Eisenhower Parkway.
“That area is starting to make a come back,” said George Eichler, a commercial real estate agent with The Ramsbottom Co., a Macon-based company leasing the shopping center.
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North Park II was built in the late 1990s, and the same time that most original tenant’s leases ended is when the economy also bottomed out, Eichler said. Some longtime tenants such as Wolf Camera, AT&T and the Movie Gallery moved out. Some tenants moved to newer centers in Bibb County, such as The Shoppes at River Crossing on Riverside Drive.
“Macon is all about new,” Eichler said. “But (this area) is one of the more mature areas. The demographics back that area and the traffic counts back that area. ... I see no reason Tom Hill will see a decline.”
Eichler recently landed three new tenants to the center and currently is negotiating with others, he said.
WiseGuys moves in
Macon-based WiseGuys Wings moved into the former Nowhere Café space and opened Dec. 28, said co-owner Eric Califf. The Macon-based franchise closed its store on Zebulon Road at the same time.
“I kind of feel like this area was just abandoned two years ago when (River Crossing) came ... and some of us are trying to bring it back,” Califf said. “This place has a certain ambiance about it — it’s a little warmer feeling place than what we had. ... I hope it will attract some more tenants, because I think it’s a good area. ... Pretty much all our real regulars are still following us over there, and we are making new friends, so that’s a plus.”
He said the area received a boost when OrthoGeorgia, an orthopedic specialists company, relocated its downtown Macon offices to the former Mansour’s department store building on Northside Drive last year. Then in October, Carol’s Linens announced it would move to the area.
“We feel we can draw a good lunch crowd from (OrthoGeorgia) and some other places,” Califf said.
WiseGuys, which also has locations in McDonough and Griffin, is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, and it not only serves chicken wings, but also chicken tenders, sandwiches, salads, wraps, burgers and desserts, Califf said. It has about 10 workers who transferred from the other Macon store, and it expects to add delivery service in about a month.
TaylorMade adds lunch
An established restaurant in the area, locally owned TaylorMade Grill in the Rivergate Center on Tom Hill Sr. Boulevard, which had been open only for dinner, began opening for lunch Jan. 4, said owner Michael Griffin.
“We have been asked by regular customers for so long” to open for lunch that he finally decided to do it, Griffin said. “The opening of OrthoGeorgia made a big impact ... and it just seemed right to start it off at the beginning of the year.”
The restaurant didn’t add new employees because some of the existing workers wanted the extra shift, he said.
In addition to its dinner hours 5 p.m.-until Tuesdays-Saturdays, it is now open 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, he said.
The lunch menu “is totally different,” he said. “It’s a European, kind of bistro-style, café-style menu with a little bit of TaylorMade flair.”
A restaurant new to Macon also is heading to the area.
The former New East China Buffet on Northside Drive (which closed in early 2008) — located between OrthoGeorgia and North Park II — is now under lease, said Guy Eberhardt, associate broker with Coldwell Banker Commercial Eberhardt and Barry Inc.
Plans are in the works for a Greek/American restaurant that will feature a “full bakery with cakes and pies” available for take out, Eberhardt said. Restaurateur Theodore Sourlis is coming here from New York City and expects to open the business in March following extensive renovations to the building.
New bookstore coming
Another midstate-owned business, Gottwals Books, expects to open in the North Park II shopping center the first week of February, said Shane Gottwals, who owns the business with his wife, Abbey Gottwals. Some renovation had to be done, such as installing shelves and painting, to get the space ready, he said.
The company, which sells used books it gets on trade in, first opened in Warner Robins in March 2007 and opened a store in Byron this past summer.
“It has done well enough that it prompted a Macon location,” Gottwals said.
Also, the rocky economy contributed to the decision to open a Macon location, Gottwals said.
“We had been turned off by Macon ... the good areas have been so expensive,” he said. “With the recent downturn in the economy, we have been able to get lease terms ... we can afford.”
About 95 percent of its nearly 50,000 books it sells are used, but it has “a lot of new releases ... and we special order new books,” he said.
It’s not a Christian bookstore, but Gottwals said, “we’re definitely a Christian-run company. We do weed out the trashy romance novels and things like that.”
“Anything bought from here is guaranteed for half back in a store credit, if it still has our sticker on it ... even five years down the road,” he said.
Gottwals said he has hired the two people who will work at the store, but he may have to add workers if business picks up.
Tentative plans are for the store to be open 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays, except Wednesdays, when it would close at 5 p.m. It will be closed Sundays.
“We see a lot of potential for this side of town, especially with Carol’s Linens coming.” he said. “It has a lot of visibility. If people can see the name, they will come in.”
F Stop comes into focus
Another store coming to the shopping center is a newly created business: F Stop Photography. Two of the three owners have 30 years experience in the industry, and used to work for Wolf Camera before it went out of business last year following bankruptcy, said co-owner Miriam Langley.
Mostly cosmetic work is necessary to get the 1,400-square-foot space ready, including new fixtures and painting, Langley said. It is expected to open later this month, and it will be open 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m., Mondays-Saturdays.
The store will offer several different options for customers. It will have four kiosks for people to sit at and use their camera memory cards to print photos. It will have a “huge printer using the latest technology, and a printer that can print up to 20-inch-by-30-inch prints. F Stop also will have a portrait studio and will display works by local photographers.
F Stop will feature a cafe that serves coffee, bottled water and packaged cookies in a lounge setting.
“People can sit and read the paper or with (the store’s) WiFi, they can use their computers,” Langley said.
“I felt this was really the best, centrally located place,” she said. “I think this shopping center is coming back alive, and we want to make our store a destination.”
To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.