A pre-opening event at the campus Subway shop for WCU faculty and staff that was originally scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 3, was postponed because of delays in obtaining final permits over the holiday break. Owners are planning a faculty and staff appreciation event in the near future. Updated plans included the official opening of the Subway on Friday, Jan. 6.
The first days of January will bring the openings of two restaurants in Noble Hall, Western Carolina University’s new mixed-use facility located at the corner of Centennial and Central drives.
A Subway sandwich shop once again will be in operation on the WCU campus when the husband-and-wife team of Scott and Shelley Welch officially open their doors Wednesday, Jan. 4, and the first Chili’s Grill & Bar in North Carolina west of Asheville will be firing up its grill Monday, Jan. 9 – which also happens to be the first day of WCU’s spring semester classes.
The Welches operated a Subway franchise in rental space in WCU’s old commercial strip on Centennial Drive until Nov. 21, 2013, when a fire severely damaged a building that housed their restaurant and two others, Rolling Stone Burrito and the Mad Batter Bakery and Cafe. The university’s master plan already called for the eventual construction of a mixed-used facility at the site to include both student residential units and commercial space, so trustees of the Endowment Fund of Western Carolina University, which owns the property where the commercial strip was located, decided to accelerate plans for the new building. The fire-damaged structure and other rental units in the strip were removed to make room for the $29.3 million Noble Hall, which opened to student residents in August and includes rental space for five businesses.
Although the Subway will officially open Jan. 4, plans are to hold a WCU faculty and staff pre-opening day Tuesday, Jan. 3, that will include a free 6-inch sandwich, chips, drink and a cookie for WCU employees, Scott Welch said. That event will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“We are extremely excited to finally be re-opening,” he said. “It’s been a long road, but we are very proud of our brand new store with the upgraded decor. It’s turning out to be a beautiful store and fits in nicely with the overall feeling of Noble Hall.” The campus Subway will be open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Scott Welch said he and his wife own a total of six Subway franchises, including the WCU location. The couple operates two Subways in Franklin and also has restaurants in Sylva and Cherokee, and another one inside the Sylva Walmart. The hiring of employees to work at the WCU site is ongoing, and some of those already hired are being trained at the couple’s other locations, he said. “The majority of them are WCU students, many of whom live just above us in Noble Hall,” Scott Welch said.
Operated by Aramark, WCU’s food service partner, the Chili’s Grill & Bar will have regular operating hours of 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.
The restaurant, which represents the latest Chili’s prototype currently in development, is bringing more than 70 jobs to the WCU campus, said Scott Lamond, resident district manager for Aramark. Chili’s will be filling about 4,200 square feet of space in Noble Hall and will seat 125 customers inside and 75 on the patio.
“We have an enthusiastic, energetic team eager to serve guests looking for delicious food and drink in a fun and relaxing setting,” Lamond said. “We’re excited to bring Chili’s Fresh Tex and Fresh Mex favorites to students on Western Carolina University’s campus.”
Chili’s is the flagship brand of Dallas, Texas-based Brinker International Inc., which has more than 1,550 Chili’s locations in 31 countries and two territories.
With the opening of Subway and Chili’s, three of five commercial tenants will be in operation in Noble Hall. Bob’s Mini Mart, a convenience store that was dislodged from the space it had occupied for about three decades as a result of the Noble project, was re-opened by owner Bob Hooper in late October. Owners of MadStone Cafe and Catching Light Books, a combination cafe and bookstore, expect to open their doors in early February. The three partners in that venture include two entrepreneurs who were forced out of their locations by the fire – Suzanne Stone of Rolling Stone Burrito and Jeanette Evans of Mad Batter Bakery and Cafe – along with WCU alumnus Chris Wilcox, owner of City Lights Bookstore in Sylva. The opening for a fifth Noble Hall commercial tenant, a campus outpost for Sylva-based outdoor recreation retailer Blackrock Outdoor Co., is predicted for early 2017.