61 South development growing to capacity

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Vision and a big dose of nerve went into the development of commercial property immediately south of St. Catherine Creek on U.S. 61 South.

&8220;Rickey Edgin was brave enough to tackle it,&8221; said real estate developer Glenn Green. &8220;It went from a little over five acres to 40 acres. Ricky moved probably several hundred thousand yards of dirt there.&8221;

Edgin, of Edgin Construction Co., said the topography made potential buyers nervous. &8220;That hole in front scared everybody, but we figured we could do it, and the dirt we needed to fill was already there on the site.&8221;

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The feat of creating a level, well-packed site took months of work. &8220;We built a large box culvert and filled in the canyon. Then we leveled the site using dirt from the back,&8221; Edgin said.

Pizza Hut was the first business open on the site. Smoothie King, new to Natchez, is expected to be the second.

George Weeks and his wife, Susan Weeks, knew they wanted a Smoothie King franchise, but at first looked for an existing building to renovate.

&8220;Our real estate agent Doug Merritt pointed out that property for sale,&8221; George Weeks said. &8220;We found it most suitable.&8221;

Smoothie King had its start in New Orleans, where the founder opened the first store. &8220;He had a lot of allergies and was lactose intolerant,&8221; Weeks said. &8220;It&8217;s a healthy alternative, not a restaurant and not a fast-food place. There&8217;s a smoothie bar and different kinds of nutritional supplements.&8221;

The one store has grown to about 350 franchises across the United States. Weeks said he expects the Natchez Smoothie King to open in early November.

Nearby, a new building for Delta Rentals is under construction. &8220;The best thing for us is that we&8217;ll own the land and own the building,&8221; said Jeanie Cauthen, who owns Delta Rentals with her husband, Todd Cauthen.

&8220;And it&8217;s a good spot,&8221; she said. &8220;We&8217;ll be able to serve our customers better.&8221;

The Cauthens have owned Delta Rentals for eight years, operating the business at 247 U.S. 61 South. &8220;The new building will be much bigger, and it shows that we&8217;re growing,&8221; Jeanie Cauthen said.

A big plus for Delta Rentals, probably open by late November in the new location, will be its close proximity to the new Stine Lumber Co. store expected to occupy most of the back part of the property.

Green said the Stine brothers pushed back construction of the Natchez store because of destruction of several stores in Hurricane Katrina.

&8220;It will look just like a Lowe&8217;s or Home Depot,&8221; Green said. &8220;It&8217;s going to be a top-of-the-line deal.&8221;

The last section is under contract, Green said. &8220;We&8217;ve contracted the piece next to Smoothie King to El Potro to build a second restaurant,&8221; he said.

Edgin said the project turned out to be successful. &8220;It&8217;s all sold.&8221; Two other parcels in the back area of the property have been sold separately to private investors.

Meanwhile, Edgin and Green have partnered in a project on the north side of town across from Northgate Shopping Center.

&8220;We have about 25 acres and a number of different lots,&8221; Green said. &8220;We&8217;re building the underground sewer and water now and have a permit to put a four-way stoplight at the intersection.&8221;

The stoplight will control traffic into and out of the Northgate Shopping Center, which connects to Morgantown Road, and into and out of the new project as well as the traffic north and south bound on U.S. 61.

Green said the north project is modeled on shopping centers in the Lakeland Drive area of Jackson, with streets entering and exiting and streets inside the commercial center. The center is named Beechwood, as the property is part of the original Beechwood plantation tract.