JOLIET – Potbelly Sandwich Shop opens Wednesday, the latest addition to the Route 30 retail strip stretching in front of the Louis Joliet Mall.
More construction is underway and more is planned in the near future as retailers and restaurants continue to seek space on the highway where it runs past the mall.
The city of Joliet earlier this year contracted a retail study to determine consumer needs in the area. But the biggest problem may be finding space to develop.
“There’s a huge interest among retailers to locate near the mall on Route 30, and there just isn’t any property left,” said Steve Caton, a principal with Caton Commercial.
While there isn’t exactly a lack of property, pickings have gotten slimmer.
The Potbelly is in a strip mall that was built on property where houses were cleared away to make room for commercial development. Other homeowners have started to put property up for sale as a once-residential section of Route 30 increasingly becomes an extension of the Louis Joliet Mall retail district.
“The road isn’t what it used to be,” said Caton, who has one home up for sale for potential commercial development.
O’Reilly Auto Parts is building a store at Route 30 and Kellogg Street on the Crest Hill side of Route 30.
That intersection is the center of the retail study commissioned by Joliet, which found a population of 77,100 with an average income of $74,300 within 3 miles. Extended to 10 miles, the population is 447,900, and the average income is $91,500.
The Millennium Square shopping center, located in Joliet, is one of the focal points of the study. It still has land available for development.
An O’Reilly Auto Parts store may not be a breakthrough retail development, especially since it’s going up across the street from an Auto Zone store in Millennium Square. But the market looks promising, according to the Joliet study.
“Auto parts did pop up as one of the areas where there’s greater demand than there is supply,” said Steve Jones, economic development director for Joliet.
The biggest potential areas for new growth, according to the study, are grocery stores and specialty foods. Other retail categories with potential are general merchandise, gas stations, florists and lawn and garden.
There also is room for more drinking places, according to the study.
There is more supply than demand for full- and limited-service dining within 3 miles, although demand gets greater using a 10-mile radius.
That may have contributed to Pizza Hut, one of the first restaurants outside the mall, closing earlier this year. Jones said developers plan to demolish the building and replace it with a small retail center.
Potbelly, however, believes the area is a good place to open up its second restaurant in Joliet. The chain opened a restaurant on West Jefferson Street in late 2014.
“We’ve had good success in Joliet,” said Stacey Domzalski, general manager for the new Potbelly. “We wanted another spot on this side of town by the mall.”
Potbelly opens Wednesday, but it will test the waters Tuesday with one of its pre-opening Oven Warming events. The restaurant will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for lunch and from 5 to 7 p.m. for dinner. Proceeds will be donated to the Plainfield Central High School Parent Teacher Student Organization.
ROUTE 30 AND KELLOGG STREET STUDY
Population within 3 miles: 77,100
Average household income: $74,300
Vehicles a day: 21,100
Retail with more demand than supply: grocery stores, specialty foods, general merchandise, gas stations, florists, drinking places and lawn and garden
Source: JGSC Group
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW
• Potbelly Sandwich Shop opens Wednesday
• O’Reilly Auto Parts opening soon
• Closed Pizza Hut to be demolished for small retail