The excitement in Curtis Weilert’s voice showed just how passionate he was to be bringing a new development to Hays.
Weilert, in an interview with The Hays Daily News on Saturday afternoon, announced JT Travel Plaza will be coming to the north part of Hays near Home Depot and IHOP.
“This is very exciting for Hays,” Weilert said. “It’s a good addition. There’s a lot of good things happening right now.”
The travel plaza will feature a Schlotzsky’s, Cinnabon and a Cenex gas station. Schlotzsky’s specializes in hot sandwiches and other like items, while Cinnabon features a wide selection of bakery items.
“It’s a cool little project we’re working on,” Weilert said.
All three will be combined into one building on the northeast corner of the lot. Weilert said he hopes ground will be broken on the new venture this week, with a projected opening in mid-August.
The idea to develop the business venture began several months ago.
“We were looking at different types of franchises in everything,” Weilert said. “Scholtzsky’s has really expanded its line, now has flat-bread pizzas and other things than just sandwiches. They’re looking to compete with Panera Bread and Jason’s Deli. We don’t really have anything like that here.”
Weilert and his father, Michael D. Weilert, had discussed the idea for some time.
“We’ve talked about it for months — all through 2015,” he said. “We really started the ball rolling in October. We started with the gas station and convenience store. There’s three south of interstate and only one north. We wanted something to add with it. To bring locals north of interstate, we needed something with it.
“We were researching Schlotzsky’s and saw most of the new ones have a Cinnabon with it. It’s something more than just fries and grease. People are wanting a healthy choice for fast food.”
The Schlotzsky’s also will feature a breakfast menu, something Weilert said few in the U.S. currently offer.
Aaron White, executive director of the Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development, said the new business will be nice to have in Hays.
“Hopefully it will be the start of a lot of new things for the community,” White said.
Weilert said working out the details was strenuous.
“It’s part of the Home Depot subdivision, so we had to have Home Depot’s approval on everything,” he said. “We had to make sure we were OK with city ordinances, but also Home Depot, too. It was a higher bar to cross.”
Michael D. Weilert will be the owner, and Weilert will serve as general manager. Nick Finnegan will be the store manager.
Weilert and Finnegan will go to Austin, Texas, soon for training.
Weilert said contracts have been signed for the development and businesses.
He said the parcel of land the development will be on won’t be large enough to house a truck stop or easy accessibility for truckers. The business will be more of a travel plaza, he said.
“Hays really has a need for a truck stop, but we’ll be more of a convenience store,” Weilert said. “We’ll still have diesel RV’s and pickups.”
The project will feature 5,300 square feet of building space.
Weilert said it took some negotiations to get Schlotzsky’s to help bring a store to Hays, and he was extremely thankful for the company’s willingness to develop in a town where he grew up.
“It’s very exciting,” he said. “It will be really good for Hays. The Schlotzsky’s people stuck their neck out to bring it to Hays. It’s a smaller market than they traditionally are in.”