It’s been in the works for about two years, but crews finally will break ground on the Alcoa Culver’s in July.

Officials from the Culver’s restaurant chain and local franchise owner Ron Dresen said by phone Wednesday the Alcoa location is set to break ground in July and ultimately open the first week of January 2021.

Dresen — who opened Knoxville’s Kingston Pike location in 2017 — said he just closed on the purchase of land at the corner of West Bessemer Street and Hamilton Crossing Drive where the drive-thru/dine-in butter burger restaurant will be built.

Like many development projects nationwide, the Alcoa Culver’s was somewhat delayed by COVID-19.

“We were set to close at the end of March and then I just put a delay on it for myself,” Dresen said, adding he wanted to give time for things to settle down before he really dug into the new venture.

Developing that particular spot is somewhat out of the ordinary. Dresen noted the land has some environmental regulations on it and potentially some sinkholes.

That means crews will have to drive piles into the ground before they actually start building the restaurant, a process that will make construction a little longer than usual.

Culver’s Director of Public Relations Paul Pitas said construction time for a restaurant is usually about four months. But the Alcoa location is set to take nearly six months.

“That’s the target right now,” Pitas said. “With all of the unknowns that go along with a construction project, plus you add COVID-19 ... you just never know.”

High demand

With a more concrete timeline on the horizon, Dresen said he’s received a lot of questions about when the franchise is coming to Blount.

“The number of people who drive from Blount County to eat with us, there’s a lot,” he said. “Every day I was in there when the dining room was open, someone said to me, ‘When are you going to build here?’”

That dining room in Knoxville has been closed since COVID-19.

Dresen wanted to open the Knoxville Culver’s dining room Wednesday, but he said a Dunkin’ regional manager recently indicated they were waiting on him and Chick-fil-A to make a decision.

That gave Dresen pause.

He’s concerned about his employees and his customers’ health and even though business has been doing very well, mostly because of the drive-thru, since March, he’s going to give it a few more weeks before he opens the dining room.

Meanwhile, the Kingston Pike Culver’s has added a second drive-thru line with a tent and mobile cash register to keep up with demand.

When asked if he would do two drive-thru lines at the future Alcoa location, Dresen said designs already have been locked in with city, but he may be open to adding some small details as the project picks up.

Right now, he said he’s just happy it’s moving forward.

Dresen, who won Culver’s 2018 Newcomers Award with his wife, Anita, said he recently was talking to his lawyer about the Alcoa location and commented, “I can’t believe it. This is actually going to happen now.”

He said Wednesday there should be activity “in the next few days.”

Midwestern staple, growing in Tennessee

The Culver’s chain was started in Wisconsin and is a fast-food staple in the Midwest, where the name is synonymous with its signature butter burgers and frozen custard.

Between Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan alone, there currently are 378 restaurants.

There are only handful of them in Tennessee — seven in Middle Tennessee and the one in Knox County.

Follow @arjonesreports on Facebook and Twitter for more from city government reporter Andrew Jones.

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