Catfish restaurant to sell site to pharmacy chain, will relocate

Published 12:26 am Wednesday, April 5, 2006

By By Adam Prestridge
Since opening the Pondarosa in 1968, Robert Faircloth has become one of Atmore's leading businessmen.
After 25 years of serving up burgers and fries to local teenagers and offering an extensive menu to townsfolk, the then 63-year-old Faircloth said goodbye to the seemingly endless hours and hello to the Golden Years. As for Atmore, the residents began frequenting Faircloth's new business venture, David's Catfish House, and began to love menu favorites such as Katie's Chicken Salad and David's famous catfish and chicken fingers.
Tuesday morning, nearly 13 years later, Faircloth announced that he was selling his Catfish House to Walgreens, a national pharmacy chain that owns more than 4,000 stores across the nation. But for those who have grown to enjoy the good cookin' and friendly service offered at David's, you're in luck, the Catfish House will be relocating just a few blocks up the street.
"When the man called me on the telephone and wanted to know if I was ready to sell it, I told him 'Nah, the place has been too good to me'," Faircloth said. "He called me back two or three days later and said he would just like to sit down and talk to me, but I said I was doing fine just like I am and that I was happy as I can be with it. He said he just wanted me to listen to his offer. So he came on with his entourage and we fed them dinner and he said 'I understand now why you don't want to give this place up.' I listened to his offer and the more I listened the better it got. It got to the point where neither Rob and I could refuse."
Rob Faircloth, Robert's son, made the announcement for his father before Atmore Mayor Howard Shell, city council members and members of David's management prior to the Catfish House opening its doors for lunch Tuesday.
During the announcement, Shell credited Robert Faircloth with the growth that has occurred over the years on South Main Street.
"When Robert came down here, if my memory serves me correctly, he bought this from a family who had started a little hamburger stand," Shell said. "When Robert bought it, it really began to flourish. There was nothing on this side of town. When you left the red light downtown, this was considered way out of town. Everything you see on the south side of town gathered around down here where Robert was drawing all of the traffic."
The younger Faircloth said that he and his father have been working on the project since September of 2005. Walgreens approved the site on March 13.
"We entered into a purchase, sale agreement with Walgreens back in September," he said. "They're proposing to build a 15,000 square foot building here."
The new David's Catfish House will be constructed next to Davidson Lane only a few blocks south of its current location. The metal building will be approximately 6,000 square feet and will seat between 200-220 patrons.
"It was a suitable location for us to relocate; we didn't want to be far from where we are now. We needed a large enough parcel to build a new catfish superdome that's going to seat 80,000 people," Rob Faircloth said with a laugh. "I really want to thank Jerry and Patty Davis. They've been a part of this since the get-go; they own the property. They've been easy to work with and they've helped us to find a place to relocate."
The new David's Catfish House will look similar to the current location. All of the furniture, fixtures and memorabilia will be used at the new location.
"We'll have a grace period to do the move, but it was part of the negotiations that we would have very little down time," Faircloth said. "Ultimately, what we've done is agreed to let them relocate us. They're going to relocate us, put us in a new building and take over the property. They'll help us relocate Great American Loan next door. It will basically be a land swap deal. They're giving us ample time for us to get out and relocate before they take over. We have a strong customer base that we want to stay close to and we appreciate."
Following the announcement, the elder Faircloth gathered all of his employees together and made them aware of the sale and assured them that they will have work.
"Two weeks of down time is probably the most we'll have, but we'll have plenty of work for everybody," he said.
The new Walgreens will be located on the 2.3-acre plot that the current David's Catfish is located on. The site has 360 feet of frontage and is 400 feet deep. It stretches from the David's Catfish House sign next to Dollar General, which is located on the right side of the property, to Barnhills, on the other side.
"They (Walgreens) really build a good looking building and they landscape it well," Faircloth said. "It will really change the landscape here. They have several different tiers of stores and the tier they're building here is a tier 2, which is the next to their largest store."
The Great American Loan building will also be relocated as part of the sale, according to Rob Faircloth.
"We're making provisions to relocate them, so you'll see three new buildings going up here over the next few months," he said.
Rob Faircloth believes the change is not only a positive step for his family, but for the City of Atmore as a whole.
"Since we've lost K-Mart, we just haven't had a national retail presence in Atmore," he said. "Walgreens really carries a full line of merchandise and I think they're the next best thing since K-Mart in my opinion. It sure would be nice to keep people in town buying stuff up."
Walgreens is currently in the process of permitting and getting Alabama Department of Transportation restrictions completed. No closing date on the sale has been set.
"No party anticipates it not going through," Rob Faircloth said. "We've already engaged an engineer and are working on our site plan. We're in the process of located a metal building manufacturer."
As for the future, Robert Faircloth is excited about the new opportunity.
"I'm looking forward to continuing a nice relationship with the rest of the merchants in Atmore and also with Walgreens," he said.

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