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Hixson is gaining a new eatery and an eyewear store outside Northgate Mall in two of the retail sectors that a developer says are growing as the coronavirus pandemic gives way.

Miller's Ale House, a sports-themed casual dining restaurant concept, is putting a new location outside the mall next to a Buddy's Bar-B-Q eatery, said Chattanooga developer Bassam Issa.

Also, My Eyelab, which offers customers low-cost eyeglasses and eye exams using a telehealth model, is set to open a store nearby, next to the Panera Bread restaurant, Issa said.

Issa said in a telephone interview that the retail segment still isn't back to its pre-pandemic activity. He estimated that 90% of expansions are in restaurants and the other 10% are in the medical services segment.

"It's pretty much very selective," Issa said.

He said that plans are for the restaurant at Highway 153 and Hixson Pike to open by the end of this year.

Ray Holden, chief development officer for Miller's, said the eatery will seat 230 people and employ 75-90 people.

He said the Hixson restaurant will feature a new prototype design for the brand, which already has a Chattanooga location on Gunbarrel Road in East Brainerd.

"Our first restaurant in the Chattanooga market is a strong performer in our portfolio and we expect the new Hixson location to do equally as well," Holden said in an email.

Miller's has more than 90 restaurants in 10 states.

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Staff Photo by Mike Pare / Construction has started next to Buddy's Bar-B-Q outside Northgate Mall on a Miller's Ale House restaurant. Workers are shown readying the site in this Tuesday, May 31, 2022, photo.

Sadiq Notta, a Chattanoogan who with brother Karim is the franchisee for the My Eyelab store, said plans are for their first unit in the area to open in August.

He said by phone that there are plans for four other My Eyelab sites in the Chattanooga area — on Gunbarrel Road; in Fort Oglethorpe; Dalton, Georgia; and Cleveland, Tennessee.

Locations don't have an optometrist on site but rather leverage a proprietary software technology to provide patients with "a state-of-the-art eye exam that is safe, reliable and affordable," according to the company's website.

Notta said each location is expected to employ at least five people. He said about $600,000 would be invested in the Hixson site.

Issa said that Miller's is expected to take up about 6,500 square feet. The My Eyelab store is to go in about 3,000 square feet of space.

Issa said there is more space available in the multimillion-dollar strip development that in large part is built on land that held a Firestone auto center that operated for many years outside the mall.

In 2019, Issa bought the old Firestone center, a 3-acre tract outside the mall, with plans to build a new Panera restaurant, which relocated from its long-time location on the opposite side of the shopping center.

The developer also brought in Buddy's Bar-B-Q and Bluff City Soaps to the center. Firestone moved its tire and repair shop to a new location a couple of miles away off Highway 153.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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