Jonesboro OKs zoning for Lee Street store

Photo by Curt Yeomans
The Jonesboro City Council voted unanimously on Monday to grant a conditional use zoning permit to Universal Food Mart and Restaurant, to open a convenience store in a long-vacant business location on Lee Street.

Photo by Curt Yeomans The Jonesboro City Council voted unanimously on Monday to grant a conditional use zoning permit to Universal Food Mart and Restaurant, to open a convenience store in a long-vacant business location on Lee Street.

A Jonesboro couple, hoping to open a convenience store and Caribbean restaurant in a long-vacant building on Lee Street, cleared a key zoning hurdle on Monday when the city council unanimously approved a conditional use zoning permit for the business.

The permit allows the couple, Marius and Ady Pierre, to open Universal Food Mart and Restaurant, at 27 Lee St., at the former site of an insurance business and meat market. Ady Pierre said the convenience store is expected to open in about one week, pending the approval of its business license. She said the restaurant part of the business is expected to open in a month and a half, to two months.

Although Ady Pierre answered the council’s questions about the business on Monday, she said her husband will be the sole owner of the enterprise.

“Everything is the same as I told you last week,” she told councilmembers. “We’ve already got everything inside the building.”

Before the convenience store part of the business could open, Marius Pierre had to obtain the conditional use zoning permit from the city council, because its location is not regularly zoned for that type of business. Mayor Joy Day said the “Neighborhood Commercial” zoning designation enables the restaurant to open, but it does not normally allow for a convenience store to move in, too.

She said the granting of a conditional use permit allows the city to specify that only Pierre can operate a convenience store at the location.

“It’s just conditional, because should they move out, and the building be vacant again, nobody could come in and put another convenience store in there,” Day said. “It’s just on the condition that they continue to be successful.”

The mayor said Pierre still has to obtain a certificate of occupancy from the county, and a city business license before he can open the store. Ady Pierre told councilmembers the convenience store will be open daily, from 10 a.m., to about 6 p.m., and the restaurant from 11 a.m., to 8 p.m. Afterwards, she said the store would be “like a little grocery store,” selling everything from food, to baby supplies. The restaurant, she added, would serve American and Caribbean cuisine, including chicken and barbecue.

The business is actually not new, because the convenience store has already been open on Tara Boulevard, for four years. Ady Pierre said the couple has wanted to move to Lee Street. She said she and her husband purchased the building outright, rather than renting space in it.

“We thought we could definitely move our business in there, because it used to be a meat market, and then, you have the two-story building , and we wanted to do the restaurant, so we thought that was the perfect location.”

Day said the site at Lee and Smith streets has been vacant for much of the last decade. She also said she is “excited” to see a new business — aimed at serving the people in Jonesboro’s downtown neighborhoods — set up shop on the edge of the city’s residential and commercial areas.

It is one block off Jonesboro’s downtown Main Street business district, and residential neighborhoods are directly behind it. The mayor said having those businesses in that location, although not on Main Street itself, will help the city with its efforts to revitalize the business district in its downtown core, which is peppered with vacant storefronts.

“It is in a great location,” Day said. “I’ve already seen what they are going to be serving at the restaurant, and I definitely will be going there. It’s exciting to me to see two businesses side-by-side opening. I urge our citizens to give them business, and to support them, and help them. We want to see them be successful.”

After the council voted, the Pierres were greeted by some residents who were happy to see a business move into the neighborhood. “I just wanted to say congratulations and welcome you to the neighborhood,” said resident, Mary Bruce, who lives one street over. “I’m looking to when ya’ll can open.”

The mayor added that long-term plans for the city’s Streetscape project call for Jonesboro’s downtown street-side renovations to eventually stretch down Smith Street, to the convenience store’s and restaurant’s location. “We’re going to continue our efforts in revitalization,” she said.

Day said she had “great hope” in the chances of the convenience store and restaurant staying around for awhile, because the Pierres bought the building outright. “People don’t just purchase a building, unless they are serious about it, so that gives me great hope that they’re going to work at it, and be an integral part of the city,” the mayor said.