• February 21, 2017

Killeen businesses clear way for In-N-Out, search for new sites

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Posted: Sunday, February 23, 2014 4:30 am

Amazing Thailand was filled with the aroma of basil, curry, ginger, onions and peppers Thursday as patrons grabbed seats in the dining area.

As customers ordered, Suban King threw ingredients into a giant wok in the restaurant’s tiny kitchen. The owner of the Thai eatery, King cooked alone.

Come the end of February, the restaurant will be empty — no smells, customers or King. She is one of about 10 tenants forced to move from a strip shopping center on South W.S. Young Drive to make way for the construction of In-N-Out Burger.

“Business just started getting better, but now I have to move,” said King, taking a break from the kitchen before the lunch rush.

In-N-Out, a California-based burger chain, had the landowner re-plat the location with the city of Killeen to accommodate the business.

To begin construction, a building between the Sprint Store and Wendy’s on Central Texas Express Way has to be demolished.

After hearing rumors for about a year, tenants in the ill-fated building were served with eviction notices Jan. 31. The notices listed various “must be out by” dates according to lease agreements.

The property manager of the strip center couldn’t be reached for comment, but the leasing agent did admit to helping relocate the tenants.

Several of the businesses already found new locations. Some, such as King, are still looking.

Struggling to find a location

“If I want to move, I want to move to the right location,” King said. “Right now, I don’t know where I am going, so I can’t tell my customers.”

King fears she may lose her clientele with the move.

Nicole Garcia, a Killeen resident who has dined at the restaurant for two years, said she plans to patronize the new location — if it’s in the Killeen area so she can continue to have lunch with her co-workers.

“As long as they stay local, I would follow them, because it’s authentic and very good food,” Garcia said.

King selected the original location because it technically has highway frontage and already had a kitchen.

Building a kitchen in a suite not designed for restaurant use and moving in larger equipment, such as commercial refrigerators, is costly, she said.

“The cost to move is too much,” King said.

Searching isn’t easy

As her only kitchen employee, King does not have the opportunity to look for a new location until after the restaurant closes.

Searching for something to fit her budget and desired location, with an ideal traffic count and visibility, is time consuming.

Nails Today owner Dong Chau, a 20-year tenant of the soon-to-be-demolished strip shopping center, also has had trouble finding a new place, but he hasn’t started searching yet, he said.

With multiple nail spas dotting the retail landscape, Chau will be challenged to find a location that doesn’t already have one.

“Moving out means losing business,” said Chau, who spent $5,000 on renovations two years ago.

“It is a hard time to find where to go.”

Nails Today needs more plumbing and electrical outlets than most sites usually have, which adds to moving costs.

Prestige Beauty Salon, another tenant in the shopping center, spent $20,000 renovating a new space for the business, said owner Sharon Hines. Costs included more than just buying stylist chairs.

A salon needs more lighting, more electrical outlets and a larger water heater than most businesses, Hines said.

Seeing move as opportunity

The challenges and frustrations that come with relocating a business doesn’t mean the move is a bad thing, said Allstate agent Doug Tracey, a 23-year tenant of the shopping center.

“I have done a survey with my customers, and they said they are glad I am coming off this street,” he said.

Clients told Tracey that traffic in the area sometimes prohibited them from stopping at his office.

He is relocating to 2100 E. Stan Schlueter Loop, where customers will have better access. The location also is headed in the direction of the city’s growth.

“I am expecting an increase in business simply because of the new location,” Tracey said.

“I think this corner is dragging, and I will be the closest (insurance agent) to the new neighborhoods.”

Hines anticipates the move of her salon to 2301 E. Central Texas Expressway, Suite 104, will benefit her business by allowing the shop to reinvent itself. Although her rent will triple, she will have double the space in a more visible area with more traffic.

“The way I look at it, it is a new beginning,” Hines said.

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  • Dave posted at 10:12 am on Tue, Mar 4, 2014.

    Dave Posts: 4

    Rather than fault the business that is moving in, how about faulting the owner of the building that was obviously looking at bigger $ signs for selling out to In-Out Burgers instead of loyal, long-time tenants. They've known for over a year that they were selling the building but they put up For Lease signs trying to get tenants to lease their empty spaces. Wonder if they informed any new guys that they would be evicted about the time they got their business off the ground?

  • Blak9 posted at 11:31 pm on Mon, Feb 24, 2014.

    Blak9 Posts: 24

    We already have enough Burger places in town. That was a foul move to do this to the local business owners.

  • wilcfry posted at 10:23 am on Sun, Feb 23, 2014.

    wilcfry Posts: 93

    Thanks for this story. When I first heard In-and-Out was coming to Killeen, I was glad -- because it's always nice to see new businesses in town (and I come from a town where businesses were always moving *out*).

    But I had no idea locally-owned small businesses were being forced out of their shops. This definitely changes my feelings on the new restaurant. There are plenty of open plots on heavily traveled roads, including Stan Schlueter, where new businesses can build.

  • JohnnyinHarkerHeights posted at 9:21 am on Sun, Feb 23, 2014.

    JohnnyinHarkerHeights Posts: 69

    I do like In and Out, but to do this to local businesses for a chain is an obscenity.

    Local businesses are what make the community.

    Chains do provide jobs, but do not sustain the community like small business people who live and work in the community.

    Killeen should be ashamed of itself for pushing for them to come here if this was the price to pay.

    The only question I have is whether or not the businesspeople did anything proactive.

    In and Out is not known for being a ruthless private corporation, but one with a heart who has always paid above minimum wage Etc.,

    They would be the type to look elsewhere in situations like this, but I doubt if the head office in CA had a clue.