Fountain City residents remember with excitement when work started at the former CiCi’s Pizza building across from Party City. The building sat vacant for years before Peak Restaurants started renovating it for a new McAlister’s Deli, and now the thriving restaurant has received the Honor Fountain City Day Commercial Restoration Award from Fountain City Town Hall. The award will be presented on Memorial Day at the Honor Fountain City Day event.
While owner Jeff Shawl said he’s glad to be part of the Fountain City community, he also said it was “a long journey” to get the new location ready. Construction was slated to begin in March 2016, but the building was in the floodplain, so the architectural drawings were not approved. It took another 15 months before construction would start again.
“If you put a certain amount of money into renovating a building, you have to upgrade to the latest building codes, and that includes floodplain and FEMA requirements,” Shawl said. “It came down to we had to spend a certain amount of money to make it look and feel like a McAlister’s.”
Those requirements included reinforcing the walls and building an anchoring system into the foundation to withstand a 500-year flood. Shawl and his partners considered moving the restaurant to another location, but they couldn’t find a better match. They’d been looking for an ideal Fountain City location for 10 years.
“Fountain City was going to be a great location for a McAlister’s,” he said. “It fit the demographics. But we couldn’t ever really find what we needed in terms of visibility and parking in that area. This site had much more parking.
“It was a long journey, but we are thrilled to be there, and it’s proven to be a very good restaurant.”
The Fountain City location is also one of only 25 out of the 425 nationwide McAlister’s locations that has a pickup window, another feature allowed by the former CiCi’s building.
The restaurant opened in January, and Shawl said the community has embraced it. In turn, McAlister’s has embraced the community, donating a percentage of its opening week sales, around $1,200 to FISH Hospitality Pantries. Receiving the award from Fountain City Town Hall is one more affirmation that Shawl and his partners made the right decision.
“For me, it’s gratifying because of the amount of time and effort and money we spent on this site, and there were many times along the way that we thought, ‘What are we doing? Maybe we should just walk away,'” he said. “So, to be recognized as having a positive impact in the community makes me feel tremendous. I feel like it’s a positive impact for the shopping center and for Fountain City. Our staff and team has a lot of pride in that restaurant.”