EAU CLAIRE (WQOW) - White Castle, Long John Silver's, Trader Joe's, Cracker Barrel, and Chick-fil-A; viewers have asked us if these businesses are coming to the Chippewa Valley. While we don't know if they are, for this You Ask, We Answer we look at how chain businesses like these make their way to a city like ours.
The process for a chain business to open in a new city can take years, with each franchise having their own hurdles to move past before opening.
Economic development manager for the City of Eau Claire Aaron White said the most important factor is often location; finding a space big enough, and in a spot with enough traffic. Even the median household income of community can be taken into account when looking for a place to open.
"Oftentimes they have very specific location requirements in terms of the building, so they may specify 'we want to be on the end cap of a small strip center', so that more narrowly defines what spaces are eligible to even be considered," White said.
Eau Claire is the headquarters of Erbert and Gerbert's, with stores in 16 states. Their CEO and President Eric Wolfe said when they want to open a new store, they look for places close to schools, hospitals, or large retailers; spots where people will want to stop for lunch.
"And then we look at the demographics and the traffic counts and typically we're looking at 15,000 cars going by that location, and that is just one of the check off lists that we'll have," Wolfe said.
White said that once a location is found, the business submits a site plan to Eau Claire's plan commission who ensure they meet zoning and building codes before construction can begin.
"So there's a lot of work," White said. "It could be years of work before we ever hear about the project, simply because it's less about the city and more about location, location, location when you're talking about retail and restaurants."
And while Wolfe can only speak for his own business, he thinks Eau Claire is becoming a city chains want to open in.
"I will say that towns like Eau Claire are going to be more attractive now than ever before, because so many people are moving from bigger cities into smaller cities," Wolfe said. "And being part of the community here in Eau Claire, we are seeing tremendous growth with that as well, our sales are really going very well, so I think we're going to start to see some of the bigger brands start to move in because the demographics have changed in the community."
So while we can't say when or if Eau Claire will get a White Castle, Costco, or Chick-fil-A, it could just be a matter of them finding the right location to open in.