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Wintzell’s CEO moving ahead with plans to open restaurant

Bob Donlon, Wintzell’s Oyster House CEO, is moving ahead with plans to open a restaurant in Greenville.

On Thursday, Donlon was in the Camellia City meeting with a pair of potential developers interested in purchasing Donlon’s property along Interstate Drive, where the restaurateur plans to open his eatery.

According to Donlon, he would sell the property to the developer who would then be charged with developing the site and constructing the building. Once completed, the developer would then lease the building and the property back to Wintzell’s Oyster House.

It’s a model Donlon said he has used for 10 of the 11 restaurants in the Wintzell’s system, and that he typically signs a 10-year lease with the developer.

“I’ve talked with several developers around the state, and met with two from the Birmingham area today that like the market and feel like Greenville is an ideal location for a Wintzell’s,” Donlon said.

Donlon estimates the cost of developing the site and constructing the 5,500 square-foot building to be approximately $1.3 million. He expects to spend another $500,000 to $600,000 to get the restaurant up and running.

“It’s very difficult for an owner/operator to get the bank to finance a project like this,” Donlon said. “Developers do this for a living. They know exactly what to do, especially when it comes to financing the construction side of things. We’ve found over the years that this is really the best way to do it. We want to be restaurant operators. We don’t want to own a lot of buildings. We’ve seen some interest from developers around the state, and finding a developer is all we are missing at this point.”

Once an agreement is reached with a developer, Donlon plans to recruit local investors for a new entity that will own 50 percent of the restaurant. Donlon’s Mobile-based company will retain 50 percent of the ownership.

Once the developer and local investors are in place, Donlon hopes construction can begin on the restaurant in the fall. He estimates that it will take four months to complete the project.

“I feel really good about the project,” Donlon said. “I feel very encouraged that we can put this together. It makes a lot of sense to me to have a Wintzell’s in Greenville. We’re getting close to making this happen.”

Donlon plans to locate Wintzell’s along Interstate Drive across from the Interstate Plaza shopping center. The Timberland Log Homes building is currently located on the property. That building will be removed to make room for the restaurant.

The City of Greenville has also agreed to widen Interstate Drive to give the restaurant more room for its building and parking.