Real Estate - Commercial

Waffle House Planned For Downtown In Former SoapBox Building

By Cece Nunn, posted Nov 10, 2014
A Waffle House is slated to open in the building on North Front Street once occupied by SoapBox Laundro-Lounge, a partner in the company buying the building said Monday.

North Front Street Ventures, which is buying the 17,000-square-foot building at 255 N. Front St. for an undisclosed sum and on an undisclosed closing date this month, also plans to reopen a laundry mat and put in some student housing at that address, said Thomas Simpson, a partner in North Front Street Ventures.

"We're really excited about doing this and being in downtown Wilmington," said Simpson, adding that Waffle House has committed to the location and hopes to open by April.

Of the major cities in North Carolina, Wilmington "has the most lively downtown of any of the places that we visited when we were researching" potential investments, Simpson said, referring to him and his partners.

"Downtown has become a gathering place for people again, and it's unusual compared to the other cities," Simpson said.

Ed Wolverton, CEO of Wilmington Downtown Inc., said another national restaurant chain to join those already located in downtown, including Subway and Jimmy John's, will be a good addition to the area's mix.

"Being a 24-hour business will accomodate the broad range of people that are downtown throughout the working day and at night," Wolverton said.

The Soapbox operated in what is also known as the historic Elks Temple Building as a bar and live music venue until financial difficulties forced it to close in 2013, according to a previous Greater Wilmington Business Journal story. The property was returned to First Federal Bank last year after its original owner failed to make mortgage payments and upkeep the facility. As a result, two tenants in the building, Nutt Street Comedy Room and Marks of Distinction Tattoo, also closed in June 2013, according to a September 2013 Business Journal story.

At that time, the story said, the building was listed for sale through Maus, Warwick, Matthews & Co. for $1.26 million.

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