The University of Central Arkansas has been in negotiations with Ozark Pizza Company, LLC, owners of the Papa John’s at Donaghey Avenue and Bruce Street.
The announcement of UCA’s Donaghey Corridor Project has left many wondering what will become of the Papa John’s that has called Donaghey and Bruce home for more than 20 years.
TJ Johnston, director of special university projects/community affairs, who is overseeing the Donaghey Corridor Project, said UCA would like to see Papa John’s as a tenant on the first floor of the mixed-use development.
“They are an extremely successful, flagship store within the corporate model,” Johnston said.
The Papa John’s franchise has been a step away from the UCA campus for 18 years under RLB Properties, LLC. Ozark Pizza Company, LLC of Tulsa, Okla. bought the location in 2012 with several other Central Arkansas Papa Johns locations.
Ozark Pizza Company owns and operates 46 stores in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois and Colorado.
Jim Brown, chairman of Ozark Pizza Company, said the Conway location near UCA is the most profitable store among all the company’s franchises.
According to Pulse of Conway, the Papa Johns at 242 Donaghey Ave. comes in at No. 26 among Conway’s most profitable restaurants in 2013 making $1,619,592 in annual sales.
“It’s a combination of Papa Johns being there for such a long time and students and pizza going together so well,” Brown says of the store’s success.
Brown said he is definitely interested in being part of the Donaghey Corridor Project, but his company is still in preliminary negations with the university and everything is contingent on the sale of the property.
Neither party disclosed a price for the property.
Right now, Johnston said, the parties are trying to work out the mechanics of how to build a new building without shutting down their business.
Conceptual site plans show a 67,500-SF building with student housing on the second through fourth floors anchored by 15,000 square feet of commercial retail and restaurant space on the first floor.
During construction Brown said he is considering opening another site at a “to be determined location in Conway,” operating on-campus in a school-owned facility and setting up temporary, mobile facilities near the construction site.
“We understand [UCA] plan[s] to buy our property and have us included as a tenant, and we couldn’t be more excited about that prospect,” Brown said.
Johnston said in a “best-case scenario,” UCA would break ground on the project at the end of December.