By FRED KRONER
There is more growth on the horizon for Mahomet.
The next commercial area to be developed is the southeast corner of Main and Lombard streets.
Patrick Wampler announced on Tuesday that his partner, Austin Apgar, signed the paperwork earlier in the day to complete a land purchase from the Phillips family at that intersection.
“This is the first step for what we have in mind,” Wampler said. “I’m confident that a Jimmy John’s will get there.”
Work started Tuesday evening with the clearing of brush and trees that adorn the southern perimeter of the parcel.
“We want to get something going sooner than later,” Wampler said.
Wampler, from Champaign, and Apgar, from Tuscola, have a stake in five other Central Illinois Jimmy John’s restaurants, two in Danville, one in Rantoul, one in Tuscola and one in Taylorville.
Rumors have been rampant for months that the company was seeking a suitable Mahomet location.
One reason for the delay was Wampler’s insistence that the Jimmy John’s be a freestanding building and not part of a strip mall.
“This has been going on at least a year,” Wampler said. “We looked at several other places and had some good options.
“We were close on a couple of other places, but never pulled the trigger. I was hoping to get this one.”
Wampler said research shows that the Jimmy John’s located in a building to itself does better.
“The two freestanding ones we have (Rantoul and Tuscola) have better sales than the three in strip centers,” Wampler said.
Wampler and Apgar have seen some preliminary designs, but nothing has been finalized for the Mahomet site. They are awaiting the results of a soil study before signing off on any plans.
If all goes well, Wampler said, “I hope to be open by the end of this year. I’m pushing for that.”
He is not sure if that timetable is realistic.
“These freestanding structures are a long process,” he said. “There may be a few hiccups.”
The land purchase was for a plot of land approximately 165 feet by 165 feet. Wampler hopes there will be entrances to the restaurant from both Main and Lombard streets.
By Opening Day, Wampler hopes to have a staff of 30 to 40 persons in place, a number that he expects to decrease.
“Our average staff size (at his other locations) is 25,” he said.
Preliminary plans call for seating for about 40 customers inside the building with four to five patio tables outside.
“This is like Christmas Day for me,” Wampler said. “I’ve been fighting for this for a long time.
“This (land purchase) is an exciting big step, but there is a lot of work still to be done.”
When the Mahomet site opens, Wampler plans to be present full-time until staff is trained and management personnel are in place.
After that, he will divide his days between each of the communities where he and Apgar have restaurants.
Wampler was enamored by the Mahomet location.
“It’s right off the highway, and highway draws are good,” he said. “People know the brand well because they’ve had us before.”
Though he could have had a freestanding building had he opted for a location near Mahomet’s eastside Churchill development, there were more advantages to the site that was ultimately purchased.
“If we’re in the middle of town, it allows us to be faster in our delivery areas,” Wampler said. “We can deliver to most of town.”
Since the company was founded in 1983 by Jimmy John Liautaud, there are more than 2,800 Jimmy John’s restaurants. They are located in every state except, Alaska, Hawaii and Maine.
After graduating from Champaign Central High School in 2009, Wampler enrolled at the University of Illinois without a clear path for his future.
“Three years went by and I didn’t have a game plan,” Wampler said.
He came across some persons who were interested in opening Jimmy John’s. Wampler earned his bachelor’s degree from the UI in 2013 and in September, 2014, helped open his first restaurant (Tuscola).
“The other partners had money. I didn’t have money, but I wanted to do the work,” Wampler said. “We rolled from there. Once we opened Tuscola, we wanted to do another. This one (Mahomet) has been the absolute hardest (to get in place).
“Now, we have a game plan and we need to execute.”
Wampler works closely with Chris Lehmann, a 2008 Champaign Central graduate and his former basketball teammate.
“Chris runs the show,” Wampler said. “He’s the area manager. He helps me oversee everything. Without him, I’d be worthless.”
The most recent store opening for the partners was the Rantoul location, which first greeted customers in September, 2017.