DILWORTH – A taste from south of the border is coming to East Boulevard.
Tijuana Flats, a Tex-Mex eatery based in Orlando, Fla., is in the process of adding a location in Dilworth in the former space of the Italian Pie restaurant, at 1608 East Blvd.
It’s not breaking any new ground in terms of concept – both Moes Southwest Grill and Chipotle Mexican Grill have units close by – nor is it the first Tijuana Flats in the Charlotte market – the company used to have three franchises in Charlotte that closed.
But Patrick Fore, the vice president of operations of Tijuana Flats, said the company has changed its business plan and said, based on the performance of several Raleigh restaurants, it’s time to test the taste buds of the Charlotte market again.
“The franchise partner had to close the previous locations, so this is our second attempt, and it’s corporate development,” Fore said. “Charlotte’s always a good market. Our (franchise) partner had other issues that forced his hand in development. We’ve just got to make sure we have the logistics side under control.
“Raleigh is home to about four units and we’ve got plans for another 10 up there.”
Even before Fore and the rest of the Tijuana Flats team can worry about nearby competition, which includes several fast-casual restaurants just on East Boulevard, or getting it right in the Charlotte market, renovations must be done.
Built in 1957, the building has good bones, Fore said, but added that a lot of changes have to be made in the transition from an Italian restaurant to Tijuana Flats.
“We’re gutting the whole thing, starting from scratch,” he said. “We had our director of construction come in and he said that nothing in here could stay. With the age of the building, it’s got really, really low ceilings; we had to do that to give the customers more livable space.
“It’s not going to be a cheap endeavor by any means.”
Fore said renovations, from start to finish, on the 2,700-square-foot space will cost in the neighborhood of $600,000. Swift Inc., out of Raleigh, is the contractor on the project.
“We started about three weeks ago,” he said last week. “We’re aiming to open in November and we’re charging like hell.”
While the Dilworth location is the first restaurant in Tijuana Flats’ reentry into Charlotte, Fore said he could see the Queen City supporting as many as 10 locations.
Project description: Tijuana Flats is renovating a former Italian restaurant in Dilworth, making way for a Tex-Mex burrito joint.
Address: 1608 East Blvd.
Space under renovation: 2,700 square feet
General contractor: Swift Inc.
Construction began: August
Expected completion: November