Business

Health-conscious, well-groomed Columbus attracts Atlanta investors

The new Smoothie King locations on Macon Road (opens Dec. 1) and Manchester Expressway (opens Nov. 15) will have drive-thru windows. The franchise holder plans at least two more in Columbus or Phenix City, with plans to add more in the Southeast U.S.
The new Smoothie King locations on Macon Road (opens Dec. 1) and Manchester Expressway (opens Nov. 15) will have drive-thru windows. The franchise holder plans at least two more in Columbus or Phenix City, with plans to add more in the Southeast U.S.

Greg Thomas and Dana Webster look at Columbus and see a city that is very much health conscious and inhabited by residents who like to keep themselves well-groomed.

That’s why the two Atlanta-area business partners are banking on doing extremely well with the two Smoothie King stores they are opening on Manchester Expressway and Macon Road this fall.

The one at 1625 Manchester Expressway is scheduled to open Nov. 15, while the outlet at 3025 Macon Road should make its debut Dec. 1. They are being constructed from a former dry cleaner building and a closed drive-thru fast-food business. They will be, in essence, turning distressed property into flowing cash.

“The Columbus market has some of the healthiest people, partly because it’s military. They’re just very, very health conscious, as shown by all the gyms and everything else,” said Thomas, who also is president of Duluth, Ga.-based LSGF, a company that also holds about 50 Great Clips salon franchises, including the three in Columbus and four in Auburn and Opelika, Ala.

“We go head-to-head with Starbucks,” he said of Smoothie King with its newer prototype design that includes drive-thru windows. “It’s a convenience item, and we go after the healthy guys or the healthy ladies, going to gyms real early or going to work early and wanting something healthier than caffeine.”

The partners also have about 50 T-Mobile franchises, with three Smoothie King locations thus far, including, they say, the highest volume and performing Smoothie King outlet in the Southeast in Snellville, Ga., near Stone Mountain.

“The reason it’s doing so well is because it’s a drive-thru, and we open at 6 a.m. and we have great service,” Thomas said. “We learned from that store. It’s a huge market and we’re killing it. We’re right near Starbucks and we’re stealing their business, their market share ... We think we’re onto something, so we’re trying to replicate our Atlanta success in Columbus, as well as in a few other markets.”

(RELATED: Smoothie King stores coming to Manchester Expressway and Macon Road)

Webster, who focuses on finding real estate for the franchise stores, said the search for the two local properties began in November of last year. They’re not done, with expectations of opening a couple of more Smoothie King locations with drive-thrus in a market that seems to have a running or foot race event every other weekend, particularly in the spring and fall.

Target areas for expansion could include south Columbus, as well as parts of Phenix City across the Chattahoochee River. The northeast portion of the city, such as the Schomburg Road area, also is on their radar because of demographics that show population growth, including younger people moving to the suburbs.

“We are looking for another drive-thru location, because we like the convenience of people being able to go through drive-thrus,” Webster said. “We are now looking a little farther south (in the city), because we think the north area and the center are covered with these two new locations. So we’re out scouting buildings as we speak.”

Although they are out-of-towners, the two businessmen have faith in the Columbus market overall because of the track record Great Clips has generated through the years. Earlier this week, Thomas was in Minneapolis receiving an award for his company’s Great Clips performance. The Bradley Park Drive location is one of the highest-volume Great Clips in the Southeast, he said. The other two are at Columbus Park Crossing and Cross Country Plaza.

“Columbus kicks ass, and the reason is the average person gets their hair cut every six weeks,” he said. “But in Columbus, with the military, it’s every two weeks. So it’s the same demographics, the same quantity of people, but we get three times as many haircuts out of them. Columbus is extremely high volume.”

The older Smoothie King locations at Columbus Park and at Smith Fitness Center on Fort Benning are not operated by the Atlanta businessmen.

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