Franklin Street’s 10th pizza shop — Lotsa Stone Fired Pizza — will likely open this spring, replacing the Jasmin Mediterranean Bistro that closed in December.
This will be the eighth Lotsa location in the country and the first in North Carolina, said Anthony DiGangi, chief operating officer of Lotsa’s parent company Colmont Restaurant Group.
“We tend to look for schools with a nice downtown area and student population,” DiGangi said. “We felt that Chapel Hill was a good market for our brand.”
Lotsa specializes in build-it-yourself pizzas that cook in three minutes. Customers choose their dough, sauce and toppings while watching their pizzas pass down an assembly line into a stone fired oven of 800 degrees.
“Traditionally you go into a pizza place and wait 20 minutes,” DiGangi said. “This is a way to get a fresh pizza the way you want it.”
Steve Brantley, director of Orange County Economic Development, said his department looks forward to new businesses coming to downtown Chapel Hill.
“Chapel Hill and Carrboro are the largest population center in the county and have the largest draw of bringing people in to shop,” he said.
Restaurants in Orange County’s downtown areas help fight sales tax leakage, Brantley said. That's when residents go to neighboring counties to shop at malls and larger complexes instead of shopping locally.
This disparity results in other counties benefitting from sales taxes, which leaves less money for Orange County schools and local government needs.
“New business on Franklin at least keeps our head above water,” Brantley said. “We want to empower Orange County people and businesses to have greater commerce here in our county.”
Nawwaf Said, who owned the Jasmin Bistro that Lotsa will replace, said he received inquiries about the space shortly after opening his restaurant.
“The place was never for sale, but the group approached me and said they had a concept and would love to have the location,” he said.
After deliberating for a few months, Said said he decided to take his business off of Franklin Street and sell the space to the Colmont group.
Though Said said he was unwilling to adjust Jasmin's hours to accommodate the late-night college crowd, DiGangi said Lotsa plans to do the opposite.
“Historically we are open about an hour after the bars close,” he said. “It’s a meeting spot before you go home.”
DiGangi said Franklin Street’s high rent isn't off-putting because Lotsa has the characteristics to be successful in a densely student-populated environment, proven by the success of its five other locations in college towns.
“College kids love pizza,” he said. “They tend to eat it at all hours, and it’s an economical choice.”
Former Chapel Hill Town Council member Pat Evans said she has seen businesses routinely come and go on Franklin Street during her 46 years in Chapel Hill.
“They need to have a good product, a good service and a marketing plan,” she said about what it takes to be successful in a high-rent, competitive marketplace.
DiGangi said Lotsa’s product is unique enough to be successful despite the other pizza places on Franklin Street.
“You’re going to get a quality product in a fun atmosphere,” he said. “It’s convenient and it’s fast — that’s what’s great about it.”
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.