Subway scraps plans for new NR building, plans to renovate at existing location
Last fall, the New Richmond Plan Commission and City Council voted to conditionally rezone a lot at the corner of North Knowles Avenue and High Street to make way for Subway to build a new restaurant complete with a drive-through window.
By late last winter, those plans were scrapped as the franchise owner, RJSL LLC, opted instead to purchase and renovate the building it currently occupies at 215 N. Knowles Ave.
Jackie Armstrong of RJSL LLC said the land had been purchased and plans had been drawn up when bankers approached Armstrong about purchasing the building they currently occupy along with three other businesses.
“We decided to just purchase the building,” Armstrong said. “We love the location. We’re right by the river kind of in the heart of town, and it was probably more cost-effective for us to do that.”
The only reason Armstrong even explored a new location in the first place was because she didn’t find it cost-effective to make desired upgrades — including a drive-through window — without owning the building.
“We always wanted to purchase the building, but during the process of foreclosure with the previous owner, we just weren’t able to do that,” Armstrong said.
Though work has yet to begin, Armstrong indicated that the New Richmond community can expect some significant changes to the downtown Subway restaurant this summer.
“At this point in time, we are going to be remodeling the building — the exterior and the interior,” Armstrong said. “The tenant portion will remain the same, other than we are going to take a small portion that we currently rent as an office space for Subway. We’re taking that portion and adding it into the Subway. We’re going to be doing a complete remodel and facelift of the outside of the building so it doesn’t look like a Hardee’s building anymore.”
Part of the facelift will include preparing the building for a drive-through window that will be added.
“Once we have all the plans finalized, then we’ll be determining exactly when the best time for us to do that is,” Armstrong said.
At Subway restaurants, customers typically shuffle along in line and watch their sandwiches being prepared while gazing over the various meat, veggie and dressing options. When ordering via drive-through, that visual link is lost for customers, but Armstrong believes the advantage gained by increased convenience far outweighs any loss.
“I think part of it is just to remain competitive,” Armstrong said. “Within the restaurant quick-service business there are several. We’ve been to several Subway locations that have drive-throughs, and it’s just a nice added service for people. A lot of people in the middle of winter don’t want to go outside.”
RJSL LLC, which also owns Subway restaurants in Baldwin, Roberts and inside the New Richmond Walmart, intends to make the downtown New Richmond shop with a drive-through its landmark store. With help from Derrick Companies of New Richmond and Braden Construction of Houlton, the store’s transformation should make the property bordering Mill Pond more visually appealing, especially with the increased visibility it will enjoy with walkers and bikers using the Doughboy Trail and the John Doar Civil Rights Walk in the future.
As for the property at High Street, Armstrong said the RJSL LLC will hold onto it until an acceptable deal can be reached with other developers.
“We have some brokers who are looking to sell the property for us,” Armstrong said.