Classic Cullman 2017 - Page 79

Classic Cullman / y’all listen up When the Alabama Policy Institute named Cullman the 5th best city in Alabama to locate a business, it was tapping into a sentiment that individual investors — those who knew something of Cullman — already shared. man Economic Development’s retail recruiter at the time]. I just pulled up and just said, ‘Hey, what have you got?’ She started showing me all the businesses that had come to Cullman, and all the things that the city had done to help. Just ask Rick and Cindy Story, Nashville residents who were seeking to expand their franchise holdings of the popular Buffalo Wild Wings sports bars and re staurants. “I already had a good feeling about things, but that right there gave me a really good feeling.” “I identified the market I wanted,” said Rick, seated at a table at his immaculately clean, lively and well-appointed Cullman restaurant. “I had heard anecdotes from others, in other towns, and I had to come see Cullman for myself.” From that moment forward, everything else was a matter of ironing out the details. “Then, a while later, when I opened the restaurant in Decatur, there was a couple there from Cullman. We got to talking. They started telling me about the ball parks here, and how active Cullman is with tournaments — really just all the stuff that is constantly going on here — so I just decided I’d drive down here one day and see. My idea of Cullman was passing through on I-65, just getting to the beach; I’d never actually stopped. So this time, I drove to Cullman to see Cullman. “I got off the Highway 157 exit and drove that way down into town. I passed from one end to the other — really just made the whole loop. I looked around and said to myself, ‘There’s a lot more here than I thought.’ So I starting Googling. I was getting interested. I met with Susie [Susan Hood Ashley, Cull- When the Storys say they want their restaurant to be an integral part of the community, they aren’t kidding. They’re good brand ambassadors, and they’ve done a lot to reward the city’s confidence in their success. Buffalo Wild Wings has a culture of being accommodating — to sports fans; to families; to the specific interests and sentiments of the communities where they locate. “The idea is to engage the community; to become a true retail resident,” explained Cindy. “I knew I didn’t want to [put this restaurant] out by the Interstate, because that’s not really ‘in’ the community, in the way I wanted us to be,” said Rick. “Buffalo Wild Wings is a corporate brand, but this is not a corporate store — we own it. We’re in relatively small markets; we’re not in the big cities. So from the beginning, we wanted this to be Cullman’s Buffalo Wild Wings. After his first visit, there was no soul-searching involved. Rick and Cindy knew they wanted to put a restaurant here. “One of our restaurants is in Florence. There’s a guy who was coming in to the Florence restaurant all the time — maybe he worked down here, or maybe he lived here — I’m not sure. But he kept telling me, ‘You’ve gotta go look at Cullman!’ want to come here. They get it.” There definitely were some details to settle: working with local government to negotiate the city’s alcohol ordinance, selecting the appropriate site, and addressing the city’s involvement in meeting the restaurant’s infrastructural needs. But all of that proved to be a breeze, said Rick, thanks to Cullman’s welcoming and accommodating attitude toward new retail investment. Once the Storys committed to putting a restaurant here and had obtained a site, they got a firsthand look at why Cullman has earned such a business-friendly reputation. “I had a sewer issue,” explained Rick. “The way the existing sewer lines were run, it was gonna cost me a fortune to get sewer to this location. I went to the city, and they were like, ‘You know what? Let us bring it to you.’ And they sure did. That’s the kind of pro-business environment that makes people like us “We would rather invest in Cullman — in the community — than spend money on billboards; radio, whatever,” added Leslie Nabors, the franchise’s sales and marketing manager. “To us, that’s a commitment that matters to people, and it matters to us. In each place we locate, we have people who come out to be supportive of games, events and local things that matter to them. And what’s great about the way we do things here is that we view ourselves as being part of that community.” Given the chance to do it all again, Rick and Cindy agree they’d jump at the chance to locate their restaurant in Cullman. “It’s the smallest market that I’m in, but that really just tells you how good a market it is,” said Rick. “I really do think Cullman is gonna continue growing — and I’m glad we’re already here.” - 79 classic 2016.indd 79 8/31/2016 2:47:23 PM