When Tiffany Dubberley and her husband, Brady, began pursuing a franchise with Chicken Salad Chick in Columbus, they knew that the location was critical.
"Honestly, being a new franchise concept off the ground, we had no idea how Chicken Salad Chick was going to be perceived outside the Auburn-Opelika bubble," where it was founded, Tiffany Dubberley said of the research and planning process.
But it didn't take long for the couple to determine that The Landings, off Airport Thruway and situated between Interstate 185 and Veterans Parkway -- two major north-south arteries through Columbus -- was the place to be.
"The Landings just felt like in my heart, to me, that's where I wanted to have it. I think there's a charming neighborhood happy feeling when you're there," said Dubberley, who opened the eatery that sells 15 varieties of chicken salad six months ago, quickly becoming a popular draw for foodies.
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The clincher for the chick who sold pharmaceuticals for years before getting the franchise bug? The eclectic blend of restaurants, retailers and service businesses in the 300,000-square-foot shopping center.
"I just think a variety of stores draws in a variety of people," said Dubberley. "There's everything there, from something as simple as a Subway sandwich to Cafe Le Rue (Cajun and Creole food), which is totally different. Then there's your basic Americanas like Applebee's and Fuddruckers. Outback's up the hill. The other shops there range from ice cream to a vacuum store. And Kinnucan's is a very, very popular store."
That's pretty much how Woodruff Company executive Lucy Jones planned it after the Columbus real-estate development and management firm bought three aging shopping centers in the area in 2004 for $20 million, then spent several million dollars renovating the existing space and adding outparcels.
They made what was old new again.
"Obviously, The Landings has exceeded our expectations," said Jones of the shopping center that has held its own against other popular areas -- Columbus Park Crossing, the Bradley Park Drive area, and the steady resurgence of the city's downtown.
"The thing about The Landings is that we try to create a fun place to shop and a fun place to eat," said Jones, who is constantly using free events such as a country market or an evening with Santa Claus to attract area residents. The Landing Pad, a children's play area, was added last summer.
"We have become very family-friendly and a great place for a date night," she said, acknowledging the sheer variety in the center that runs the gamut from national retailers and chain restaurants to specialty shops and eateries operated by local residents.
"The Landings is kind of a one-stop shop," Jones said. "You can get your errands done. You can eat dinner, you can get your shoes repaired, get your vitamins, get your B12 shot, go to your Weight Watchers meeting. You can buy a birthday gift, clothes, a baby gift. We have a great diverse group of tenants, and to me that's what makes it a really unique shopping experience."
Naturally, food is a major draw. Like an army, a city works and plays and travels on its stomach. And The Landings steps up to the plate on that one -- steaks, pizza, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, ice cream, yogurt and cupcakes.
A country buffet, burrito joint and drive-thru hotdog outlet are even part of the mix.
That cluster of food establishments is one of the things that attracted Rocky and Kristin Hutchins to The Landings, where they opened their own creation -- Bitter Brick -- on the upper level just over a month ago. Its menu includes sandwiches, soups, coffee, wine and chocolates.
"I looked everywhere for something small to start off with, and I felt like this was the perfect location," said Rocky Hutchins, who is hoping The Landings and other parts of Columbus eventually become niche draws for eating and shopping similar to areas in Atlanta.
"Hopefully in Columbus we can get that same thing going," the restaurateur said. "I'm just passionate about the industry. So I'm hoping that everybody does well here in town, especially the locals."
Steven Davidson, who opened the Fuddruckers restaurant in The Landings in 2006, moving into a new outparcel building, noted the shopping center is becoming popular outside of the city. He related talking recently with an office worker in Auburn, Ala., who noticed the Fuddruckers emblem on his shirt. She regularly makes a trip to The Landings.
"I think they do a great job," Davidson said of the Woodruff Co. "They've got the chicken salad place and now the cupcake place. They've got The Landing Pad between me and Sweet Frog. That stays wrapped up with kids on a pretty day. So, yeah, the Woodruffs do a great job at keeping that clean and neat and marketing everything real well."