Aug. 17--Don't blink. You may miss another grand opening in Jacksonville.
On Friday, Jacksonville welcomed another new business -- Biagio's Italian Coffee and Espresso Bar on 622 New Bridge Street. One of the restaurant's owners is also co-owner of Marlo Construction, Martin Aragona, who said the restaurant is a long time coming. According to Aragona, the century-old building required an extensive overhaul, inside and out.
The building, which stands diagonally from the Onslow County Courthouse has been painted white and the decaying interior, which was partially exposed to the elements during the course of the project, now houses what Aragona hopes to be the first of four eateries in the building.
"We started demolition a tad over a year ago," Aragona said. "Its been a long project but a very fun and rewarding project."
Aragona said one of the more rewarding aspects of the project has been unveiling parts of Jacksonville's history as the construction of something new progressed. Old glass bottles and a mural painted around the same time the building was constructed in the early 1900s were discovered during the course of the project, according to Aragona.
Aragona is a Jacksonville native and said one of the goals he's hoping to achieve through Biagio's is to continue infusing new life into the city's downtown district. Aragona said he hopes the new cafe will keep those working in Downtown Jacksonville in the area during their lunch hours and will make the area an option for an evening out with friends and loved ones.
"I hope it serves all the people that live and work downtown on a daily basis," Aragona said.
Along Western Boulevard, several new construction projects -- including hotels, restaurants and retail shops -- are in various stages of completion.
The ground work on a new Hobby Lobby retail store has started next to Toys R' Us. In front of the Carmike Cinemas Patriot 12, which has been open for less than two years, Fuzzy Peach Frozen Yogurt shop, a Wilmington based franchise, is taking shape. Nationwide franchises Noodles and Co. and
According to Vince Andracchio, president of Guardian Foodservices in Rocky Mount, the Zaxby's restaurant in Jacksonville is scheduled to open in the next 30 days. Andraccio said the restaurant expects to open in mid-September. Mackenzie Webb, marketing director for the Jacksonville Mall, said construction on a Forever 21 on the Western Boulevard side of the building is on schedule and should be open before the holiday shopping season begins in late November. A representative with Lowe's Foods said the Jacksonville location is scheduled for completion Oct. 15; and Terry Branton, manager of the Wal-Mart on Yopp Road in Jacksonville, said construction on the Wal-Mart in Richlands is scheduled to end in February.
According to Laurette Leagon, president of the Jacksonville-Onslow Chamber of Commerce, the continued growth in Jacksonville is due to the town's stable economy. Leagon said the county is in an economic advantage with many other parts of the nation due to the military's presence.
According to information from the county, the Department of Defense and Camp Lejeune MCCS are the two of the top three employers in Onslow County.
MCAS New River's MCCS is ranked 14th and the United States Postal Service is ranked 24th.
"Franchise chain businesses do their homework," Leagon said. "They don't just drive down the street and say 'let's put a store here.' They do a lot of research to see where to put a new shop or restaurant."
Matt DeCambio, general manager at Chuy's location in Jacksonville, said Jacksonville's military presence made it a prime location for a franchise. DeCambio came to Jacksonville in March, a couple months in advance of the franchise's opening. According to DeCambio, several customers have mentioned their familiarity with the chain.
"Reception has been fantastic, especially with the military influence," DeCambio said. "We've had people come out of the woodwork, whether they're from Texas or their visiting from Texas."
DeCambio said though he hasn't been in the area long, he's seen noticeable growth on his restaurant's block alone.
Sleepy's Mattresses, which also opened earlier this summer, and Mission BBQ, scheduled to open to the general public on Aug. 25, are located next to Chuy's.
"We'll see how we can help each other out and make it work for everybody," DeCambio said.