October 27, 2020

Recruitment firm’s claim of credit for new businesses not accurate, residents say

A retail recruitment firm hired by the city and county to bring business to the area took credit for a Zaxby’s restaurant opening on Brookway Boulevard, but a franchise owner disagrees.

Caroline Hearnsberger, a consultant with the national retail recruitment firm The Retail Coach, cited Zaxby’s as a project the company helped bring to Brookhaven.

“We definitely brought a Zaxby’s in,” she said after District 4 Supervisor Eddie Brown asked for a progress report Monday.

“What business have you brought in here? How many employees? Tell me something right now that is going to encourage me to vote for you,” he said.

Supervisors were deciding whether to continue the company’s $10,000 contract. They voted to renew the contract after Hearnsberger’s presentation. The city was scheduled to vote Tuesday night on its half of the $20,000 contract.

Hearnsberger cited Zaxby’s and a Smoothie King as successes.

Zaxby’s opened in February and the franchise is owned by partners Tyler O’Neal, Ben Goza, Lance Newman and Ryan Case. An owner said Tuesday that the recruitment company was not involved in the process of bringing the restaurant to the city.

Hearnsberger on Tuesday clarified her comments, saying that the Retail Coach played a “minor role” in bringing Zaxby’s to town. The company provided “an in-depth data package to the Zaxby’s corporate office at the request of the Brookhaven Chamber and the broker involved in site selection and negotiations,” she said.

“We also continued to stay in contact with Zaxby’s corporate real estate manager and the Chamber throughout this process,” Hearnsberger said. “Zaxby’s is a locally owned and operated restaurant that the city of Brookhaven is very fortunate to have. Zaxby’s is a wonderful community partner — they are the kind of folks that you see sponsoring local youth teams and supporting local endeavors, largely directed by local owners.”

Local realtor Ernie Clark said The Retail Coach was not involved in bringing Smoothie King to the city, either.

“They absolutely had nothing to do with it,” Clark said. “Two Smoothie King executives came in a little over two years ago and stopped to get gas. They saw my sign and called me.”

Clark said the executives asked about the former Payless Shoes site and expressed their interest in bringing their business to Brookhaven, where they had “never seen so many people” in a town this size. The company then entered into a lease brokered by Clark.

Smoothie King has yet to open.

Hearnsberger announced Monday that a McAlister’s Deli franchise planned to locate in the city but she did not provide specifics on where or when. A McAlister’s Deli representative did not respond to a request for a more information about the restaurant.