By this time next year, many of those Benny’s stores that closed this year will have re-opened as restaurants, coffee shops, retail operations and, quite possibly, supermarkets and some office space.
That’s the plan following last week’s announcement that Carpionato Group, based in Johnston, would be buying the 29 stores for an undisclosed price at the beginning of the new year.
There’s a lot of work to be done between now and the closing and even more work once the deal is finalized and the iconic Benny’s trademark disappears from storefronts across the state. In an interview Friday Kelly Coates, senior vice president for Carpionato, said 200 people are currently working on putting the Benny’s deal together. He said the team is conducting environmental assessments of store sites, determining zoning and deed restrictions, assessing the condition of buildings, building locations relative to curb cuts as well as site landscaping. Surveys need to be done and architects are drafting various proposals for each of the sites.
Coates said no one tenant would occupy all the sites, although there may be common retailers or stores such as a Starbucks, Chipotle, Smashburger or Jersey Mike’s in a number of locations.
“We’re looking at all options,” he said.
While Carpionato has built and operates two hotels in Warwick – the Crowne Plaza and the Holiday Inn Express – Coates doesn’t see hotels on any of the sites. There could be some office and possibly even some medical office space at some of the locations, potentially even a supermarket.
Overall, Coates said, the Benny’s sites have good visibility, are on grade and are good locations. The intent is to open the doors to former Benny’s as quickly as feasible in an effort to sustain traffic.
“The neighbors [neighboring retail operations] all get hurt when a Benny’s closes,” said Coates.
Coates listed the work to be done as including the replacement of roofs, facades, HVAC systems, repaving lots and, in many cases, the reconfiguration of space to accommodate new uses.
“When you’re talking about 29 roofs, 29 HVACs and 29 facades, that’s why you get to $100 million pretty quick,” he said.
He said the $100 million is a “conservative” estimate for conversion of the stores. He projected the work as creating 350 construction jobs.
In terms of the permanent jobs, those that would replace the lost 715 Benny’s jobs, Coates put the number at 1,000, of which he estimated 80 would be store managers.