Which restaurants are next to open locally?
Andy’s Frozen Custard has posted an online “coming soon” for 4209 S. Noland Road, just off Interstate 70 in Independence, the site of the old Chuck E. Cheese.
Others under the “coming soon” heading are less clear. Across the street from the Andy’s-to-be, Hawaiian Bros. had been set to open this month at the old Sheridan’s Custard site, but the company lists no opening date. In fact, it lists its next “coming soon” metro locations as Shawnee and the Ward Parkway shopping center.
Meanwhile, it’s still unclear when Eastern Jackson County will get its first Whataburger. The old BMO Harris Bank site at 18931 E. Valley View Parkway in Independence has come down to make way for a location there. Another is coming to 905 Missouri 7 in Blue Springs (the old Winstead’s), and the company still lists 1450 N.E. Douglas in Lee’s Summit as proposed. The company is tight-lipped about when any of them open.
Various data points suggest strength with a few concerns for the area economy:
• Housing construction is off to a steady start in 2021 in the area, but the Greater Kansas City Home Builders Association says higher lumber prices – rising demand, supply-chain issues – are likely to put a crimp on buyers.
The eight-county area closed out 2020 with 5,366 permits issued for single-family homes – up from 2019 and almost dead even with 2018. In January, 406 permits were issued, the highest for that month since 2018 and third-highest in the last eight years.
• The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, surveying an area from western Missouri to Wyoming and Oklahoma, says consumer spending was up in January – health care, restaurants and retailing had gains – but down in February.
The people and companies the KC Fed contacts regularly “anticipated stronger activity in the months ahead, although the majority also noted that the COVID-19 vaccine rollout was somewhat or very important to their outlook,” says the Beige Book report issued last week.
• The Creighton Economic Forecasting Group at Creighton University in Omaha tracks manufacturing and says Missouri’s growth in that area since last July has been “anemic.” On the other hand, production workers’ pay in the state has risen 6.1 percent since the onset of COVID-19.
Overall, Creighton puts Missouri’s business conditions index at 64.2, which on its 100-point scale strongly indicates that supply managers at manufacturers in the state expect growth for at least the next several months.
Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s editor. Reach him at email@example.com or @FoxEJC.