Rock Bottom Restaurants Inc., the company that owns Old Chicago, opened its first Rock Bottom restaurant and brewery in Colorado Springs this week.
Located at Powers and South Carefree in the Main Street shopping plaza, the restaurant joins three Old Chicago restaurants in Colorado Springs, but is the first of the company’s brewery concepts to enter the market.
The store is the flagship restaurant and will serve as the model for other restaurants throughout the nation.
Rock Bottom is a 15-year-old concept with Colorado roots. Famous for its handcrafted beer brewed on premise, it also boasts a diverse menu.
The company employs more than 7,000 people nationwide in 58 Old Chicago restaurants and 34 brewery concepts. It has franchise partnerships under its Old Chicago brand that account for more than 20 locations, with plans to have about 200 total operating units by 2008.
Difficult times at C.T. Retail Brand Alliance will leave about 10,000 square feet of retail space open at the Shops at Briargate.
General Manager Jennifer Halloway said the brand owns five stores at the lifestyle center: Casual Corner, Petite Sophisticate, Casual Corner Annex, August Max and Adrienne Vittadini.
All five stores will be closing early in 2006, Halloway said.
“The entire company is not doing well,” she said. “But it frees up a lot of square footage for us – you don’t normally see that much opportunity in a new center. But we’re excited.”
Marketing for retail space will be done by the center’s parent company, Poag and McEwan, which is headquartered in Memphis, Tenn. Halloway said she does not have any signed leases.
But a rumor persists, she said. Lane Bryant, a store that specializes in plus-size clothing for women, bought 75 of the Casual Corner stores. The rumor is that the Colorado Springs store is one of them.
“I hope it’s true,” she said. “We’d love to have a Lane Bryant here. But we don’t have anything official. We haven’t been contacted by Lane Bryant and neither have the managers in Memphis.”
Dean Shauger, senior vice president of management and marketing for Poag and McEwan, said the company could not verify whether Lane Bryant would be moving into the Casual Corner location at the Shops of Briargate.
“We’re just not ready to make that announcement at this time,” he said.
Lane Bryant did not return calls seeking comment.
The deal, which cost $2.8 million to acquire the stores’ leases, lease improvements and fixtures, will be finalized in April, according to a news release from Charming Shoppes, the parent company for Lane Bryant.
Charming Shoppes operates 2,269 retail stores in 48 states, under the names Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug, Fashion Bug Plus and Catherine’s Plus Sizes. The company also owns Crosstown Traders, Old Pueblo Traders, Bedford Fair, Willow Ridge, Lew Magram, Brownstone Studio, Regalia, Intimate Appeal, Monteray Bay Clothing Company, Coward Shoe and Figi’s.
In the meantime, the Shops at Briargate has a temporary tenant: Love Sacs is open for the holiday season.
“They started just after Thanksgiving and have a lease until January,” Halloway said. “We’re trying to convince them to stay permanently. It’s a fun store.”
Started in a college freshman’s basement, Love Sac now has more than 60 stores open across the country.
Similar to a very large beanbag – the company Web site says emphatically they are not beanbags – Love Sacs are giant bags, more than seven feet across. The store also sells “sactionals” – sofas made from the same material as the sacs.
CEO Shawn Nelson took the idea and sold it in various incarnations until he opened the first retail store in the Gateway Mall in downtown Salt Lake City.
Customers responded to aggressive sales promotions, and started holiday shopping early.
According to the National Retail Federation, industry sales for November, which exclude automobiles, gas stations and restaurants, rose an unadjusted 7.4 percent compared to last year and increased a seasonally adjusted 0.5 percent from the previous month.
“Consumers shook off concerns about higher energy costs and responded well to the seasonal promotions,” said NRF Chief Economist Rosalind Wells. “If November is any indication of what consumers are capable of, retailers can expect a very happy holiday season.”
November retail sales released this week by the U.S. Commerce Department show that total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories, such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) rose a seasonally adjusted 0.3 percent from October, and increased 6.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year. Gasoline sales, which NRF does not include in its calculation of retail industry sales, rose 17.0 percent unadjusted from last November.
The rosy report was boosted by strong year-to-year growth across nearly every retail industry category, including building material and garden equipment and supplies stores, which jumped 14.3 percent compared to last year.
The main drivers for this holiday, apparel and electronics, also experienced solid growth. Sales at clothing and clothing accessories stores rose 7.6 percent year-over-year, and electronics and appliance stores jumped 7.4 percent from 2004.
Amy Gillentine covers retail news for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.