The group plans to tear down a former Miami Subs across the street from the closed Regency Square Mall J.C. Penney store and open by year-end.
An investor group that includes 36-year-old Evan Clagnaz has a contract to buy a closed restaurant at 101 Monument Road in Regency for demolition and site redevelopment for a Culver’s restaurant.
Clagnaz said he, his 39-year-old brother and a friend expect to invest up to $4.5 million to buy the 1.9-acre site and 4,709-square-foot building and redevelop the property with a newer concept Culver’s.
Clagnaz hopes to be open by year-end, pending the sale completion and permitting.
The existing stand-alone structure was built in 1995 as a Miami Subs, which closed in 2003, and then was used as other restaurant concepts.
Miami Grill came back into the market to another Regency site in October 2017.
Clagnaz is a member of The Barolo Group LLC, based in Jacksonville, with his brother, Lee Clagnaz, and with John Peter Aspinwall of Milwaukee.
Their group is one of several area franchisees for Wisconsin-based Culver’s.
The area’s first two Culver’s, which feature ButterBurgers, cheese curds and custard, opened in July 2019 in Middleburg and Jan. 11 in Southwest Jacksonville at Collins Road and Interstate 295. They are owned by separate franchisees.
There are plans for more Culver’s restaurants in Yulee in Nassau County; in St. Johns County; and at Gate Parkway near I-295 in Duval County.
In Yulee, the St. Johns River Water Management District is reviewing plans for Culver’s in the Shoppes at Amelia Concourse.
Like the other franchisees, Clagnaz works with Clint Murphy, president of Jacksonville-based Murphy Land and Retail Services Inc., which represents Culver’s in its area site search.
Clagnaz said he has been working with Murphy to look at areas of Jacksonville. He said he has been following the Monument Road site since May.
He grew up in Madison, Wisconsin. His parents moved to Jacksonville about five years ago.
Because of COVID-19, Clagnaz moved to the area in March from the restaurant business in New York City.
magazine.com featured him in a February interview about his expertise as a sommelier. Barolo, the name of his LLC, is an Italian red wine “and a homage to my favorite wines I used to sell,” Clagnaz said.
While Clagnaz said his group doesn’t know the Jacksonville area well, “Arlington to me always seemed to be a very intriguing and interesting area from the get-go.”
Clagnaz said the Monument Road site, across from the closed J.C. Penney Co. store at Regency Square Mall, was one of the first he looked at and one that Murphy recommended.
He said he is encouraged that a Jacksonville developer has a contract to buy and redevelop the 54-year-old mall.
“What I found really appealing is that there is some real character to the area, not that there isn’t in other areas, but it’s not the bright, shiny new shopping center,” Clagnaz said.
“There seems to be real diversity in that area that I think we really look forward to. In New York City, I spent 15 years in restaurants. I met a lot of people. I am excited to be able to work with a diverse workforce.”
Clagnaz expects to hire 45-55 full- and part-time employees.
He said his brother will move to Jacksonville. He is the director of integrated learning at the American International School of Mozambique and has experience working with adolescents. That age group provides a workforce for Culver’s.
“That would be sort of the summer job that I had and would look for,” Clagnaz said.
He said Aspinwall, 39, is a longtime friend of his brother and also will move to Jacksonville.
He said that while people questioned investing in the site, “I really think it’s a winner.”
“When you just look at the data, it’s hard to beat. You can’t ignore that.”
Clagnaz said the traffic count is “quite remarkable.”
Marcus & Millichap represents the site, which is a block north of Atlantic Boulevard. Its summary says the site’s traffic count is more than 77,000 vehicles a day at Atlantic Boulevard and Monument Road.
The site also is next to the bestbet Jacksonville poker room and a block from the auto “dealership row” along Atlantic Boulevard.
Clagnaz said the group looked at Arlington and in North Jacksonville near River City Marketplace. The concentration of traffic, schools and the workforce was stronger at the Monument Road site for the first location.
Clagnaz grew up with Culver’s and said its culture “syncs up very well with mine.” He said the company “really likes the area” where he plans the Regency restaurant.
The new location probably will be about 4,000 square feet but will feature changes because of COVID-19, such as a double drive-thru and enhanced technology. The app will allow customers to order ahead and staff will bring out the food to the vehicle.
Culver’s also offers patio dining as well as inside seating. “It will be less reliant on having these big dining rooms,” he said.
Store hours typically are 10 or 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., although Clagnaz said he might extend hours depending on demand.
He said the group would like at least two more locations and possibly up to five or six.
Multiple franchisees strengthen the brand, he said. That way, more Culver’s can be opened than there would be with a single owner.
Buying a franchise is a natural transition, Clagnaz said.
“I’ve always wanted to own my own business,” he said. “It was going to happen. COVID sped it up.”
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