Arby's heading to Homer

Posted: Monday, February 10, 2003

The owners of the nine Arby's restaurants in Alaska reached an agreement this week with Harbor Enterprises Inc. and will open their 10th Arby's facility at the Petro Marine Services station in Homer.

The target date is April 1, said owners Mike and Tim Navarre, who operate the restaurants under Zan Inc. Harbor Enterprises Inc., meanwhile, is the parent corporation for Petro Marine Ser-vices.

"We reached agreement for what we hope will be a long-term relationship with Petro Marine Services," Tim Navarre said Friday. "We still have to get approval from Arby's Corp. I don't anticipate any problem there. The rest is just waiting for equipment and training (of employees)."

Arby's restaurants the size of the one that will go in the station on the Homer Bypass typically employ between eight and 10 full-time workers and another 15 part-timers, Navarre said.

Hours of operation have yet to be determined, but the company likely will open around 10 a.m. and close around 9 p.m. to start. A drive-through window may stay open a bit longer, Navarre said.

"We probably will stay open longer in the summer than winter," he said.

When Harbor Enterprises built the gas station, it included a convenience store, car wash and restaurant -- originally a Burger King. But that restaurant failed and closed Nov. 30.

Former Homer City Manager Ron Drathman notified the Navarres that the space was available, and negotiations soon began between Harbor Enterprises and Zan Inc.

Drathman said he was concerned about the loss of jobs due to the closing of Burger King.

He said he did a quick informal survey asking what people wanted and what stores they visited when they went to the central Kenai Peninsula. Arby's came out on top, he said.

Tim Navarre said Burger King was plagued by the difficulties of trying to run that operation from Anchorage.

"It's hard to manage long-range," he said. "Ours (businesses) are managed from the Kenai Peninsula. We are familiar with the Homer area."

He also noted that Burger King has dozens of stores statewide, while the Navarres operate just nine -- soon to be 10.

Bob Cox, senior vice president of supply and distribution for Petro Marine, said he thinks an Arby's will succeed where Burger King did not.

"It's an excellent mix," he said. "We are pleased to offer the space to Arby's. We see it as a complimentary service to the fuel and convenience store items offered to customers, along with the car wash."

Cox added that the Navarres were business people committed to clean operations, which fit well with Petro's corporate philosophy and image.

Mike Navarre said Arby's would try to connect with the Homer community.

"Arby's has a strong relationship with the Boys and Girls Club and the schools," he said. "We will respond to solicitations from the community and help where we can."

Tim Navarre said the necessary equipment has been ordered, but some of it is coming from as far as North Carolina.

"We've worked it out. We think we can make the six weeks (deadline)," he said. "It will be tight, but we are in the movement now."

While the strict business relationship between Arby's and Petro Marine amounts to a renter-landlord deal, Cox said there is more to it than that.

The key to each company's success will be the degree to which they can cross-market, he said. Thus, the two companies are likely to engage in joint marketing ventures, he said.

Homer McDonald's owner Scott Cunningham told the Homer News in early January, when it became clear that Arby's was at least looking at Homer, that he thought the fast-food market in Homer was too limited to split up further.

Reached Friday, Cunningham declined further comment.

Mike Navarre is a former state lawmaker and former mayor of the Kenai Peninsula Borough. Tim Navarre is a former member of the borough assembly.

Tim Navarre said they expect to sign the official documents closing the deal early next week.

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