WJHL.com - Pals restaurant opening in Norton

Pals restaurant opening in Norton

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By Debra Mccown

BY DEBRA McCOWN

BRISTOL HERALD COURIER

NORTON, Va. – The giant hot dog drew a crowd when it was hoisted into place Tuesday along with the giant hamburger, fries and tea.

But the huge, Fiberglass food decorating the building isn’t the only thing big about the new Pal’s location in Norton, which is scheduled to open later this month.

“Everybody’s excited about it,” said Alicia Whitt, of Pound, while in the parking lot of the Walmart shopping center above the restaurant Tuesday night. Her husband, David Whitt, pointed out the reason: In Wise County, there aren’t a lot of restaurants.

“It’ll be good not to have to drive all the way to Gate City or Tennessee” to eat at Pal’s, said Brittany Stanley, of Coeburn, who describes herself as “a fast-food chick.”

Some people who asked about the restaurant Tuesday said they anticipate spending hundreds of dollars on their favorite fast food.

“Sonic’s going to be hurting,” said Jerri Poff, of Big Stone Gap, speaking of the existing drive-through chain restaurant next door. “Pal’s is better.”

Thom Crosby, president and CEO of the Kingsport, Tenn.-based fast-food chain Pal’s Sudden Service, said the desire for a Norton location has long topped the list of comments received on the company’s website.

He said the process of bringing one here has been in the works for years, and it’s part of a larger growth plan.

Little by little, the drive-through chain, begun as a single restaurant in 1956, has expanded over the past 25 years; the Norton location will be number 24.

“This will be the third Pal’s that we’ve built during this recessionary period,” Crosby said. “When the recession hit, we were at 700 and something employees; we’re now at 904 employees, so during this whole period of time we’ve been growing and hiring people.”

The new jobs pay an average of more than $23,000 a year, he said, and the company is still “in hiring mode.”

He said the secret to growth in tough economic times is providing a product, value and service that generates customer loyalty.

Crosby said the company remains in expansion mode and is continuing to look for property; the hope is to eventually saturate the region within a 65-mile radius of Kingsport with 42 stores before moving outside its existing footprint.

Among the locations that Pal’s is looking at in Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee are: Bristol, Abingdon, Marion and Big Stone Gap in Virginia; and Kingsport, Johnson City, Greeneville, Morristown and Newport in Tennessee.

Norton area residents said they won’t be surprised if the newest Pal’s has long lines on opening day.

“I love that food,” said James Greer, of Coeburn. “When they put the open sign up, I’ll be there with bells on.”

 

dmccown@bristolnews.com | (276) 791-0701

 

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