Robby Jones lived with his family in the Midland area of Columbus for nearly two decades, a resident of the Beaver Run subdivision.
He witnessed the steady population growth, deciding a couple of years ago that it was the ideal place for another of his Subway restaurants and a Yogli-Mogli Frozen Yogurt shop.
That goal has now become a reality, with the two food establishments opening over the weekend at Lakeside Village, a Woodruff Company development with 263 upscale apartments fronted by retail and restaurant space that is now gaining momentum.
"We just felt like this was a great area. When they approached us about this shopping center we got very excited. We just felt like it would be a good match," said Jones, who soon will open his 39th Subway store in Albany, Ga., with the new Yogli-Mogli his first experience with the small Atlanta-based chain.
"I heard about it from my brother-in-law in Atlanta," Jones said of the yogurt business. "They opened one of these near his house. He called my wife and told her we ought to look at it because every time he goes in there, it's packed. That was two or three years ago."
Now, the time has come for the larger-than-normal Subway connected to the frozen yogurt shop, the sandwich shop itself a newer, more upscale concept for the chain.
But those eateries are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg lettuce for Lakeside Village and the Midland area in general near the intersection of J.R. Allen Parkway (U.S. Highway 80) and Manchester Expressway (U.S. Highway 27).
Wendy Elliott, vice president of Woodruff Brokerage Co., said more is on the way in the coming weeks and months. There are two commercial buildings at Lakeside Village, each with 10,076 square feet of space. A third structure, about 5,600 square feet, is in the construction phase.
Adjacent to Subway will be a Moe's Southwest Grill, which is nearing completion, with an opening around mid-September, Elliott said. Also set to open around that time is LV Bar & Grill, which is expected to serve up American, Asian fusion and Southern cuisine, according to its Facebook page.
The Lakeside Village menu also will include a second Chicken Salad Chick location in a building directly behind Chick-fil-A. The "Chick" also has a restaurant at The Landings off Airport Thruway.
"We are working through their construction documents right now with pricing, and they'll probably be open in 60 to 90 days," Elliott said. "They would like to be open as soon as possible."
Adjacent to the chicken salad specialist will be My Favorite Muffin, a Midwest-based chain that serves breakfast and lunch. Elliott, who described the concept as similar to Panera Bread, said it, too, should open in roughly 60 days.
Also on the menu is a Mexican restaurant that should make its debut in about 90 days, with owners of El Carrizo Mexican Restaurant involved in the new eatery, said Elliott.
There's also a pizza prospect in negotiations for space, she said, with a nail salon already committed and a fast-food chain expected to make an official announcement within a couple of weeks on a lot across Kitten Lake Drive from Chick-fil-A.
"We, long-term, hope to get a hotel out there and more food establishments and also more retail, the hair salons and florists," Elliott said. "But we've seen a real need with the restaurants. There's nothing out there to eat."
The food offerings are starting to bubble up, however. A McDonald's outlet opened earlier this year next to the Tractor Supply store on U.S. 80, with a Liberty service station now also part of the scenery there.
On Gateway Road, near the Walmart Supercenter, Columbus developer Ben Billings said a Japanese steakhouse and a buffalo wing eatery look to land in a 7,700-square-foot strip center adjacent to the Goo-Goo car wash fronting Gateway Road, along with an Erbert & Gerbert's sandwich shop.
Negotiations also have taken place with a hair salon and a liquor store on a separate parcel behind the center, which should be completed by early 2014.
Already nailed down is an American Family Care walk-in medical and urgent care clinic, which will be on the opposite side of Goo-Goo. It, too, should be ready for patients by the first of next year.
Billings, who is nearing overall completion of the shopping zone near Walmart, said the Midland area is finally bearing commercial fruit after years of effort.
He complimented the Woodruff development as a "beautiful" addition to the area, with its more upscale approach compared to the budget-minded strategy he has used at his centers. For instance, a Dollar Tree, Title Max, Cash Magic and Fiesta Auto Insurance are part of the mix at Billings Crossing Plaza, which is 100-percent leased.
"We draw from 40 miles east of here," the developer said of residents who live in more rural areas north and east of the J.R. Allen/Manchester intersection. "Those people are in need of a lot of services and they live out there for a reason -- they don't want to live in congestion. And I get told all the time by them that if they can service all of their needs here, without going any farther, they wouldn't."
For example, Ellerslie is 9 miles north of the commercial area, with Waverly Hall less than 15 miles away and Manchester a 30-mile ride. To the east is a flourishing Midland residential area, followed by Box Springs 15 miles away, Talbotton about 25 miles and Butler just over 40 miles.
Census population estimates from 2012 show nearly 75,000 people live within a 5-mile radius of the intersection, with 2010 demographics citing a median annual household income of more than $56,000.
As for traffic counts, a 2012 Georgia Department of Transportation map indicates more than 20,000 vehicles per day navigate U.S. 80 just east of Manchester Expressway. Just west of the intersection, the count jumps to about 30,000 vehicles.
On Manchester Expressway, south of the intersection with U.S. 80, the count is roughly 17,000 vehicles daily, while north of the intersection the number is about 11,000 vehicles.
"I think all of these tenants are going to do extremely well when they open up," Elliott said of Lakeside Village. "Traffic is very heavy out there, and that's not even (rush hour) at 6 o'clock."