MOULTON — Several businesses, including two restaurants, are preparing to open in Moulton, but none are locating in a downtown square where little has changed since a devastating April 22 fire and officials fear demolition will be necessary.
Joe Broadfoot, vice president of operations in the central region for Domino’s Pizza, said his company's goal is to open a store in the Forum Shopping Center near Walmart in early November. He said the restaurant will be between Cato and Dollar Tree on the north side of the center.
“We like our location and should employ between 25 to 30 people including management, cooks, drivers,” Broadfoot said. He said the store will include a few tables for patrons wanting to eat in. Pizza deliveries will be made within an eight-minute radius of the store, he said.
Seven weeks ago, Pizza Hut on Alabama 157 in Moulton began making home deliveries, also in an eight-minute radius, according to store employees.
“Pizza Hut is preparing for the competition and trying to get a jump on them,” City Building Inspector Renay Saint said.
A fourth Mexican restaurant in Moulton will open sometime late in 2019 or early in 2020, Saint said. It is planned for the Foodland Shopping Center at the corner of Court Street and Alabama 24. He said it is a franchise restaurant but company officials are not ready to announce details.
Meanwhile, the Shine Time deluxe car wash, next to the Sonic Drive-In, is on target to open in November, Saint said.
He said it appears only one of the four businesses destroyed by the April 22 blaze plans to rebuild on the square.
“The Déjà Vu hair salon owner told me she plans to reopen downtown,” he said.
Tucker’s Tire and Repair has relocated in Wren, Saint said.
Willow Tree owner Craig Johnston said he recently signed a lease to operate at 14888 Court St., next to the Bill Stewart Activities Center, and will not move back to the square.
Court Street Grill spokesman Duane Evans said owner Arthur Moss remains uncertain about plans to reopen on the square.
Saint said if owners don’t rebuild on the square, it will be blight on the historic downtown square.
“The businesses as they are will have to be demolished or repaired,” Saint said. “The City Council will have to decide to take action after a while. But the owners will be in violation of the nuisance ordinance if something isn’t done.”
He anticipates the council members will give the business owners extra time to decide what to do with the fire-damaged properties.
“We know these businesses are still negotiating with insurance companies, and nothing goes quickly when insurance companies are involved,” Saint said.
Ann Britnell, president of the Lawrence County Historic Preservation Society, said she is worried some owners won’t be able to rebuild on the square.
“With the fire, those buildings are gone, and anything rebuilt there won’t be part of the historic district,” she said. “The square could be in a danger of losing its national historic register status if we keep losing businesses.”
She said she hopes the businesses relocating on the square will have facades to mimic the surrounding historic structures.
In 1998, the Moulton square district was placed on the National Register of Historic Places with 47 structures eligible for the designation.