Bob Shallit

Phoenix soul food chain may open in Oak Park

A restaurant is likely to fill the space now occupied by College Track near the corner of Broadway and Third Avenue.
A restaurant is likely to fill the space now occupied by College Track near the corner of Broadway and Third Avenue.

The historic 40 Acres complex in Oak Park is about to get a new restaurant tenant, with a Phoenix-based soul food operation one of several candidates for the space.

Jake Mossawir, CEO of St. Hope Community Development Corp., said Friday he hopes within a month to announce the new tenant for the building at 35th Street and Broadway that’s now home to Old Soul Coffee, Underground Books and the Guild Theater as well as 12 second-floor apartments.

The 3,000-square-foot space being set aside for a new restaurant was long the site of an art gallery. It’s currently occupied by a national student mentoring organization called College Track, which is relocating to a new building next month.

“We’re in a discussion with a key tenant that would bring a unique brand to that space,” said Mossawir, whose nonprofit organization was founded by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and owns multiple properties in and around Oak Park.

He said several other restaurant operations, local and national, also are interested in the soon-to-be-vacant site and it was premature to name any of them.

One of the top candidates is said to be Lo-Lo’s Chicken & Waffles, a soul food chain that has five locations in the Phoenix area and one each in Dallas, Las Vegas and Omaha, Neb. It’s in the midst of a national expansion, via franchising deals.

Bret Anderson, one of the franchise executives for Lo-Lo’s, declined to discuss a possible Sacramento opening.

“We’re not commenting ... until there’s a 100 percent deal,” he said.

Anderson acknowledged that he is friends with Johnson, who played professional basketball in Phoenix between 1988 and 2000.

Besides chicken and waffles, Lo-Lo’s restaurants serve Southern specialties including shrimp and grits, catfish, fried green tomatoes and salmon croquettes. The chain was founded in 2002.

The vacancy at 40 Acres is the result of a bit of musical chairs being played by three nonprofits that work closely with St. Hope’s educational mission.

Mossawir said College Track is moving to a building St. Hope is buying at 2450 Alhambra Blvd. and will be joined there by Teach for America, which is now in another St. Hope building at 3400 Third Ave. Teach for America’s space will then be back-filled by City Year, a tutoring organization that is moving from a downtown location.

Mossawir said the space being left by College Track is “ideal” for a restaurant, especially given the huge patio at its front facing Third Avenue.

“Having that (patio) space is huge,” he said. “It brings a certain amount of life to a neighborhood when you have people dining outside.”

Awash in wine bottles

Talk about a high-growth business.

Continental Warehouse, which handles storage and shipping operations for client companies, moved into new digs at Depot Park in January, taking more than 43,000 square feet.

Within two weeks, it went to management at the 370-acre south Sacramento business park seeking an additional 21,700 feet. And then it added on that much again.

The quick doubling of space, to about 87,000 square feet, was the result of three contracts Continental had bid on.

“If we got one of those, it would be great,” said Continental President Roger Noyes. “If we got two, it would be really great. But three would be awful because it would be too much.

“Lo and behold, we got all three,” he said.

Fortunately, Noyes’ new landlord had the space to accommodate him, and more expansion may be ahead. Talks are underway with yet another client that would require Noyes to add 40,000 more feet.

Depot Park CEO Richard Fischer said he’s had other clients grow quickly but not like this. “That’s really unbelievable,” he said.

Continental, which operates another warehouse in south Sacramento and one in Chicago, is a third-party logistics firm, handling warehousing and shipments for diverse businesses. At the Depot location, Continental’s customers range from a firm selling elevator parts to a new client, an El Dorado Hills business that supplies bottles to wine companies.

That firm, West Coast Bottles, now accounts for about 20,000 square feet of Continental’s space.

“We have wine bottles coming out of our ears,” Noyes said.