Business Booming along western corridorBy BUSTER WOLFE,
New construction projects and business relocations along U.S. Hwy, 98 West will be heading into the warmer months soon as restaurants and shops set up stakes in the West Hattiesburg area.
One of the nation’s fastest-growing restaurant chains will be building in Westwood Square next to Play It Again Sports when Walk-on’s Bistreaux and Bar brings a restaurant that is “Game Day with a Taste of Louisiana.” The two major players in the business are founder, co-owner and CEO Brandon Landry and co-owner and partner Drew Brees, quarterback of the New Orleans Saints.
The idea for the restaurant began when Landry and Jack Warner were walk-ons on the Louisiana State University basketball team. While flying on road trips, the two developed the Walk-On’s concept and opened their first restaurant in 2003 in Baton Rouge outside LSU’s Tiger Stadium.
In 2012, ESPN took notice and named Walk-On’s the No. 1 Sports Bar in America. Brees joined the company in 2015 and Walk-On’s is now located in 100 restaurants across 15 states.
The menu includes several different Louisiana- and Cajun-based recipes concentrating on seafood and specialty foods.
Expanding to a second location will be Blooms West, which holds its grand opening March 1. The new store will be located at 6565 U.S. Hwy. 98 W., Suite 100, between Lovie’s Gifts and Dragon Court Designs.
The original Blooms A Garden Shop is located at 127 Buschman St., Suite 40. Owner Adrienne Hicks offers greeting cards, flowers and gifts for all occasions, and weddings are their forte. Services include consultation, budget development and management for all events, planning from start to finish and help with any and all aspects of every stage in the wedding process.
Already announced as an extension from Hardy Street to West Hattiesburg is the iconic second Keg and Barrel, which is expected to open by September. Owner John Neal said he plans to expand on the original Keg and Barrel’s success in the second location.
Neal said he will have two partners at Keg and Barrel West – Diana Pennington Hembree and Jim Thompson.
“Diana has been a part of the Keg and Barrel since the beginning,” he said. “She has been the General Manager for the last eight years. Jim has 20 years of restaurant experience and has been consulting for KB for the last six months.”
The investment in the Keg and Barrel West will be between $500,000 and $600,000, not including the purchase of the property. The restaurant will be located at 6 Marketplace Drive in the former Willie T’s location, Neal said.
“The inside dining and outside dining areas will be similar sizes to the original location,” he said. “I’d say 2,000 square feet inside and 4,000 outside. We have grown our sales over the years via our large outdoor area and plan to do this also at the new location.”
The new restaurant will seat from 250-300 people.
Neal said the new restaurant will not hurt the iconic establishment at 1315 Hardy St.
Other major investments in the U.S. 98 corridor include:
Courtesy Ford, which is moving from its 1410 W. Pine St. location to West Hattiesburg.
Birdhouse Café, which is owned by former MasterChef contestant Katie Dixon, has been open since December at 6763 U.S. Hwy. 98. It is open 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Miskelly Furniture has moved into the former Gander Mountain site, which is a 70-,000-square-foot building. The store sells furniture, mattresses and accessories.
Furniture store J. Allans is now located at 6169 U.S. Hwy. 98 Suite 10 across its previous location. The store hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
Construction has begun on the B-Quik Convenience Store at the corner of U.S. Hwy. 98 and Hegwood Road. The store will be situated east of a new First Bank branch, where the site has been cleared off.
Building work is getting closer to completion at the 256-unit Ballantyne Park Apartment, which is located on Lake Forgetful Road south of U.S. Hwy. 98.