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Two restaurants planned

November 16, 1998

New restaurantsBy JULIE E. GREENE / Staff Writer

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Cracker Barrel and Waffle House restaurants could open next year off Sharpsburg Pike, officials said Monday.

The two national restaurant chains were added to a development proposal for a 98-room Sleep Inn south of Hagerstown, according to the Washington County Planning Department.

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Developing about six acres along Col. Henry K. Douglas Drive could cost up to $9 million, said Stephen B. Sagi, a partner in Sharpsburg Pike Inn LLC, which owns the land.

Waffle House is opening a restaurant at 13612 Crayton Blvd. off Maugans Avenue today with plans to open another Waffle House off Sharpsburg Pike next August, said franchisee Darrell Fowler.

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Fowler said he expects to build about a dozen Waffle Houses in the Tri-State area. Other possible locations in Washington County could be Dual Highway or Valley Mall, said Fowler, who has the franchise rights for Washington County; Franklin County, Pa.; and Berkeley County, W.Va.

"The Tri-State area looks like a good area to be in," Fowler said.

The Maugans Avenue Waffle House, next to Taco Bell, is the first the chain has opened in Maryland, he said.

Besides offering waffles in four flavors - plain, pecan, strawberry and blueberry - the menu includes steaks, pork chops, chicken, hamburgers and hash browns served seven different ways, he said.

"Waffle House is a cultural dining experience," Fowler said. In addition to rock and country tunes, the restaurant's jukebox features Waffle House songs.

Waffle House, with headquarters in Norcross, Ga., has restaurants in about 23 states, mostly in the southeast, he said.

Each Waffle House is open 24 hours a day every day, and employs about 30 people, full and part time, Fowler said.

Fowler said he has a contract for a Waffle House off Sharpsburg Pike, but would not say how much the project would cost.

Sagi said he expects the Waffle House to cost $800,000 to $900,000, while the Cracker Barrel restaurant would cost $3 million to $4 million.

Cracker Barrel is negotiating to buy about three acres across Col. Henry K. Douglas Drive from Wendy's, according to Sagi and Julie Davis, Cracker Barrel spokeswoman. Davis cautioned that the deal was not finalized, but company officials were trying to lock up a prospective site.

If a deal is sealed and Cracker Barrel gets site plan approval, it would take about 20 weeks to build the restaurant, Davis said.

Lebanon, Tenn.-based Cracker Barrel has more than 370 restaurants in the United States, including in Chambersburg, Pa., Martinsburg, W.Va., and Frederick, Md., she said.

The restaurant, which offers country cooking, also features a retail area where customers can buy apparel, toys, rocking chairs, crafts and food that is offered in the restaurant, Davis said.

Cracker Barrels are open Sundays through Thursdays between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. and on Fridays and Saturdays between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m., she said.

Each Cracker Barrel restaurant employs 120 people, full and part time, Davis said.

Sagi said he expects site plans for Cracker Barrel and Waffle House to be approved early in 1999 so construction on both can start immediately.

Site plan approval also is needed for the three-story, $4 million Sleep Inn, which Sagi proposes building behind the Cracker Barrel. Sleep Inn is a fast-growing budget chain in the Choice Hotels lodging empire.

Sagi said he wants to start construction of the motel in April so it can be open by the end of 1999. The motel would employ about 20 people, full and part time.

The beginning of a gravel lane to the south of the proposed Waffle House would be paved for the restaurant's entrance and four homes would be razed, Sagi said. Only one of the homes is occupied, on a monthly lease, he said.

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