Cookout is officially open for business

After years of waiting and at least one contract renewal, Cookout is officially open for business in Elizabethton.

City Planner Jon Hartman said the project is another step towards growth in the city.

“I am glad to see another restaurant open up in the city,” Hartman said. “The improvement value of the property has increased.”

The opening comes after years of government approvals followed by silence. Early June, Cookout finally began construction by tearing down the Long John Silver’s that originally stood there.

The new restaurant officially opened Friday evening, though some smaller items still need looking into, like some of the landscaping.

“They still have some things to finish up,” he said.

Hartman said getting the grass settled properly has been difficult with how dry the weather has been recently.

Hartman said the project originally came through their relationships with local brokers in the tri-cities and Knoxville.

“We heard there was an interest in coming back to this market,” Hartman said. “They were trying to find a spot.”

Hartman said many people do not realize what the job of attracting businesses like Cookout to Elizabethton actually looks like since businesses do not just move to Carter County because of the scenery.

“Typically, [chains] expand in the big communities first, like Nashville and Memphis,” he said. “In ‘infill’ development, they go where they can get more business.”

It was this second kind of business, he said, which attracted Cookout to Elizabethton, as well as data that showed a large number of Elizabethton residents who go to Johnson City’s Cookout.

Hartman said companies typically analyze their data and make expansion plans before they even make the call to his office.

“Before they even talk to anyone, they know whether they want to come to Elizabethton,” he said.

As a result, he said promoting the city for new businesses is different than most people expect.

Hartman said they do an inventory of what Elizabethton has to offer as well as what it needs from a product or service standpoint. Using a national database, they can then see which businesses are looking to expand into the southeastern U.S. that fit their needs and target those companies specifically.

“A lot of times they have a very short window to decide where they want to go,” Hartman said. “We want to be at the forefront of their minds.”

This will involve sending these companies regular proposal packages, as well as follow-up messages every two months or so just to remind the company about the contract.

With Cookout officially completed, Hartman teased a new project involving a shopping center of two restaurants and a retailer near the Sycamore Springs Assisted Living Center, though did not divulge further details at this time.

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