Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar is stampeding Columbia.
The company next month will open a new restaurant at the old Hollywood Video location on Devine Street. It will be the first of six stores the Dayton, Ohio, franchisee ThreeWitt Enterprises wants to build in the Midlands over the next few years.
"Ohio was maxed out, so we had to look outside," said David Fisher, one of four partners in the franchise.
He said Columbia and Dayton are similar because of the presence of universities and military bases. Dayton is home to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the University of Dayton and Wright State University.
"We were looking for a growth town. And while no town is recession-proof, with the Army base, the university and the state capitol, it was close," he said about Columbia. "It just felt right."
Joe Newlin, who will be general manager of the Devine Street sports bar and eatery, said he plans a "pretty brisk opening" three days before New Year's Eve.
"There is some excitement about us coming here, so I think it will be good," he said Wednesday while overseeing the renovation of the 6,000-square-foot building at 4500 Devine St.
The store, which will have a large deck, is in the shopping center that houses Bi-Lo, at Devine Street and Jackson Boulevard.
The restaurant will employ about 130 people in a combination of full- and part-time jobs.
The chain, known for its sports-themed restaurants and wall-to-wall projection and plasma HD TV screens, has about 600 locations nationally, including three stores in Myrtle Beach and three stores in Charleston.
ThreeWitt owns 10 stores in the Dayton market.
J.P. Scurry and Rox Pollard, of Columbia's Colliers Keenan real estate brokers, were the leasing agents for the Hollywood Video location and are working with ThreeWitt to find other restaurant sites in the area.
Fisher said five stores will be in the Columbia area, and one, in Sumter. Those "definitely" include restaurants in Irmo and Northeast Columbia, he said. West Columbia, the Vista or other spots are also being considered.
The stores will join an ever-growing number of wing restaurants in the Midlands. They include regional chain Wild Wing Cafe and local wingeries like D's Wings, Wings & Ale of Lexington and Carolina Wings and Rib House, among others.
Also many other restaurants and pubs in Columbia, including the Publick House near Five Points and the Wild Hare sports bars, are known for their wings.
The store is also a boost for the Jackson Boulevard/Devine Street/ Garners Ferry commercial corridor. It saw the Kroger, Goodyear tire store, Hollywood video and Blooms nursery close within a matter of months.
Fisher said the company chose the area for a location over Forest Drive and Five Points.
"People think it is a sleeper area," he said, meaning undervalued and underdeveloped, "but not for restaurants."
Edens & Avant owns the former Kroger, Blooms and Goodyear stores.
Spokeswoman Julie Culbreath said the firm is "actively working" on plans for the site and is trying to "develop the right retail mix."
"What we do in that location will be in keeping with our other redeveloped projects in the area, which are Shoppes at Woodhill and Trenholm Plaza," Culbreath said.
Buffalo Wild Wing manager Newlin said the new restaurant started accepting applications two weeks ago and had about 900 applicants for the 130 jobs.
"Turnout has been tremendous," he said.
Two of those applicants on Wednesday were Tiera Robinson and Darchelle Davis, who have just recently moved to Columbia from Virginia.
They found out about the jobs by ads the company flashed on Facebook.
"I needed a second job," Robinson said. "They are hiring. I love wings! So it was perfect."