There are dozens of convenience stores selling gas, drinks, snacks and lottery tickets across the Columbus market, but the power shopping center known as Columbus Park Crossing has had none in its 15-year history.
That’s about to change — and it looks to be a high-traffic venture.
A Columbus businessman who already has become proficient in the restaurant sector is bringing the first convenience store to Whittlesey Boulevard. It will be located across from the Academy Sports and Outdoors store now under construction on the northeastern end of Columbus Park.
“It’s going to be a very high volume store because the traffic count is so high there,” said Sanjay Choudhury, who expects to break ground on construction in May, with a projected opening in July. The store will be adjacent to the Dairy Queen outlet and the new Fazoli’s Italian restaurant and Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom restaurant coming to the parcel of land across from the Academy Sports site.
Choudhury, who already owns Wild Wing Cafe at Columbus Park Crossing, said the northeastern end of the shopping area is now becoming congested with businesses. He pointed to the Homewood Suites and Candlewood Suites nearby, as well as Kia, BMW and Acura dealerships in the area.
There has been a proliferation of retail stores and restaurants along most of Whittlesey Boulevard through the years, with only three entrances to the shopping and dining hub. There also are two major apartment complexes inside Columbus Park. But the latest influx of new businesses on the northeast end looks to complement those that have been in the center for several years.
The clincher is the 64,266-square-foot Academy Sports and Outdoors store that is expected to open later this year. Another strip shopping center is planned in front of that store, while an outparcel space is apparently being reserved for yet another restaurant.
The city and developers plan a traffic signal at the entrance of Academy Sports, which should line up with the new Fazoli’s and Old Chicago Pizza eateries, and the convenience store across the street. The light will be needed to keep a handle on the steady and soon-to-increase traffic flowing along Whittlesey Boulevard to and from the entrance at Moon Road.
“All of this traffic is going to be coming to Academy Sports, from maybe a 20- or 30-mile radius. Everybody will be coming there,” Choudhury said of the potential for plenty of shoppers and hungry residents inhabiting an area of Columbus Park Crossing that over the past 15 years has primarily been a cut-through to the main attraction anchored by department stores and popular chain restaurants.
Dhruv Patel, the Columbus businessman who is opening the Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom with two other partners, agreed with that perspective.
“That is going to be a new corner ... I think that’s going to be the new block on Whittlesey. There’s not much land left,” said Patel, whose nearly 6,500-square-foot restaurant should open within six months and employ up to 120 people.
In fact, that employment in the shopping area is one of the reasons that Choudhury sees his future convenience store as somewhat of a slam dunk. Aside from the thousands of area residents who frequent the stores and eateries of Columbus Park at any given time, there also is a high number of employees who serve those spenders, but need a place nearby to gas up their tanks and grab a drink, bag of chips or a pack of cigarettes, he said.
“I had been asking Columbus Park Crossing to give me (approval for) a convenience store and a car wash in the area because there’s nothing there, and all of the employees that work at Columbus Park Crossing have to go up the road to get gas or any kind of convenience items,” he said. “Sam’s Club is the only (fuel outlet in Columbus Park), but some people don’t have a Sam’s card, and they also don’t have a convenience store. ... We also have done a lot of (informal worker) surveys from different restaurants and the stores there. They all told me they really would be happy to have a convenience store nearby.”
What’s left to determine, Choudhury said, is what brand of gas will be sold at the convenience store. He has been talking with a few oil companies to gauge their interest, but has yet to make a decision.