City-owned property sought for restaurant
Three local entrepreneurs presented the idea of bringing a fresh burger restaurant called Chomp Burger to Tecumseh at the Monday, March 17, City Council meeting. Little Caesars franchise owners Eric, Brad and Bruce Potter, of Potter Family Foods, accompanied by Sphere Project Management representative Kirk Valentine, described how Chomp Burger would bring a quality fast-food model to the city, offering fresh and organic menu fare. Plans would include burgers made of beef, buffalo, elk, wild boar, chicken with black beans, served with fresh cut fries.
“The way the kitchen would be designed, everything would be open, and you could see someone grilling it for you,” said Eric. “All the condiments and toppings would be behind a glass case. No food would be prepared without you visibly seeing it. A huge key to us is that we want to do organic foods and give people the opportunity to educate themselves on where their food comes from, with part of that being how we prepare the food.” Craft beer would also be served.
Valentine said the brothers first considered opening a storefront in Plaza North near their present franchise, then with encouragement from Paula Holtz at Tecumseh’s Economic Development Department, began to look at available downtown buildings for purchase.
“They couldn’t really find anything that really fit what they were wanting to do,” said Valentine. “The goal is to be downtown or as close a part of that vibrant action as they can.” He added that through a meeting with Holtz and Tecumseh City Manager Kevin Welch, the idea of the city-owned parcel of property on N. Maumee Street, across from City Hall, came up.
“This would fit very well with what they want to do,” said Valentine.
The question now is, will Tecumseh City Council members approve the sale of that property, which Welch said they might want to think about. At the time of purchase in the 1990s from former City Attorney Greg Forsthoefel, the goal was to have the land available for potential expansion of City Hall. It has been used in recent years for a community garden.
“Things have changed a lot since then,” said council member Jack Baker, who pointed to technology which now finds people paying bills online rather than coming to City Hall as they once did, and fewer employees.
“We had at least 20 more employees and were bursting at the seams back then, and there wasn’t space for one more employee,” said council member Laurence Van Alstine. “Because of changing economic conditions and technology, we do business a lot differently and there is now space.” He added that should the city suddenly grow, the city would have other alternatives for expansion if need be.
Baker suggested that the first step might be for Welch to acquire an appraisal for the property. “I think one of the considerations is what’s the value of the property,” he said. “That would have a big impact on whether I would be willing to consider selling.”
The council members agreed that an appraisal and a market survey could be brought back to an April council meeting, keeping in mind that the Potters would like to have some kind of answer soon as to whether the council would consider selling the property.
Eric Potter said that the restaurant model would be on the line of a Chipotle restaurant, and added that more such “better burger” restaurants have been popping up across the country.
Chomp Burger would potentially employ 15 individuals and seat between 60 and 70 for those who would like a dine-in experience, along with the carryout business.
The Potters also own two Little Caesars franchises in Cincinnati, and are close to a sale on those so they can focus on the new venture. They are also looking at a site in Adrian to possibly open a second restaurant, and hope Chomp Burger catches the fancy of diners and promotes future growth for the company. They were unsure which restaurant would be the first to be built.
“It kind of depends on whichever one can pull the trigger first,” said Valentine. The company would launch the design and engineering process as soon as property could be acquired at either place.