Good news could be on the way for local fans of Cracker Barrel, which is eyeing Mount Airy as the possible location for a new restaurant.
Rumors have swirled for months about such a move, which a spokesman for the restaurant chain lent credence to on Wednesday.
“We are interested and considering the market there in Mount Airy,” said Jim Keller, corporate communications manager for Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, the official name of the operation that combines restaurants and gift shops with a Southern country theme.
“But nothing is finalized yet,” added Keller, speaking from the Cracker Barrel headquarters in Lebanon, Tennesee. He said this latest word on the situation was based on a check Wednesday morning with the chain’s real estate division that lines up sites for new Cracker Barrel projects.
Meanwhile, information from several local, independent sources indicates that Cracker Barrel is in the process of acquiring a site along U.S. 601 (Rockford Street) near the U.S. 52 intersection for the construction of a restaurant around the end of this year. That property is said to be the location of at least one existing business.
Another source said Cracker Barrel personnel recently had been exercising “due diligence” concerning the possible restaurant location in the city limits. U.S. 601 has been the focus due to its high traffic volume.
“We look at numerous locations in a given year and the approval process can be a lengthy one,” Keller, the Cracker Barrel spokesman, explained.
“But we are certainly interested and considering the market” in Mount Airy, he reiterated. “That’s about all I can tell you right now.”
Such a development would open up employment opportunities for management personnel, cooks, servers, cashiers, retail positions and others.
The closest Cracker Barrel restaurant to Mount Airy is in Jonesville, just off Interstate 77 near Elkin. The chain now has 38 restaurants in North Carolina, Keller said, and 630 altogether in 42 states.
The restaurant’s menu focuses on traditional Southern cuisine, and the standard building design reflects that of an old-fashioned general store. Common features at each location include wooden rocking chairs on a front porch, a stone fireplace and walls lined with antiques from the surrounding area.
Cracker Barrel originated in 1969 as a way to serve travelers of America’s interstate highway system that was then in its early stages and by July 1996 had grown to 257 locations, according to information on the company’s website.
The coming of a Cracker Barrel to Mount Airy would be the third high-profile business development along the U.S. 601 corridor from U.S. 52 to the Interstate 74 interchange in about the past two years.
In June 2012, Sheetz opened a store near that interchange, and in September of that year a Chick fil-A restaurant joined the local business community at 2007 Rockford St.
Both developments were greeted by much fanfare.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-719-1924 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.