A giant sign that says "available" on an empty commercial building on Hixson Pike near Highway 153 will soon be replaced with "Mojo Burrito."
The popular, homegrown burrito maker plans to open a restaurant there early in 2017 between Shooter's Supply and 2 Crazy Greeks.
"This will be the fourth one," said Eve Williams, who founded Mojo Burrito in 2002 in St. Elmo. She added a location in Red Bank in 2006 and another in East Brainerd in 2010.
Williams plans renovations at the Hixson building, including outdoor seating, making room in the kitchen for a production line that will handle takeout orders only, and directing traffic so there's one way in and another way out at the traffic light. Williams said she hired Chattanooga architecture firm Cogent Studios for the redesign.
"They're really going to fix it up," said building owner Paul Pruett, who named the various tenants there over the years. "It was a Title Max, and before that it was Northgate Florist, and before that it was a Judy's, which was a take-off of Wendy's."
"Her restaurants are fantastic," Pruett said of Williams' Mojo Burrito. "She prepares everything fresh and it's her own recipes. It's really a good concept."
One reason for expanding to Hixson, Williams said, is to provide management opportunities for Mojo Burrito's longtime employees, or "tenured staff."
"I'm growing so I can continue to provide upper-level jobs for the people who've been with me so long," she said.
When she opens the Hixson Mojo Burrito, Williams plans to temporarily close the one in Red Bank so it can undergo renovations.
"We have a serious need to give it a little love," Williams said of the Red Bank location on Dayton Boulevard that she hopes to renovate and expand. It was the most popular location, she said, until Mojo Burrito's recent move in St. Elmo into the former Slick's Burgers at 3950 Tennessee Ave., which made the St. Elmo Mojo Burrito the most popular.
The timing will let employees at the Red Bank Mojo Burrito work in Hixson while the Red Bank restaurant undergoes renovations. Williams said she tries to take care of her employees.
"We actually provide health insurance and dental and vision and a retirement plan," she said. "We take care of those who take care of us."
Each Mojo Burrito employs between 20 and 30 people who are a mix of full-time and part-time employees, said Williams.
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