Written by The Business Journal Staff
At 505 Sierra St., on the main drag connecting the city to highway traffic, long-time restaurateur H.T. “Chick” Brooks has owned or leased three restaurants over more than a dozen years, starting with a Country Waffles and most recently a Jeb’s Blueberry Hill, which he recently closed.
Currently, a new sign for Brooks Ranch – a restaurant chain Brooks started in Fresno 35 years ago – has been put in front of the building, and a note tacked onto the front door states, “WE WILL BE CLOSED FOR 6 WEEKS.”
Brooks said he has no anticipated date to reopen yet, as he’s working to get a building permit for an up-to-30-foot expansion for a salad bar and banquet room.
When it does open, it will be the sixth Brooks Ranch that Brooks currently owns, and he’s interested in opening a seventh in Hanford later this year.
Just yards behind the future Brooks Ranch is a building that started as the Swedish Mill Restaurant, as the upper part of the building is a Swedish-style windmill visible to passing motorists on Highway 99.
Despite the exterior’s Swedish motif, plans are to turn the restaurant – which last was King’s Buffet, serving Chinese food – into an Irish pub and restaurant.
“We are gutting it now,” said Kelly Allred, co-owner of O’Sullivan’s Sunny Side Lounge in Fresno, who plans to turn the Kingsburg site into a second O’Sullivans, specializing in serving American and Irish food that will have a full bar, including 20 beers on tap.
The extent of the work needed to convert the restaurant, vacant for about the past three years, isn’t clear. The exterior of the property clearly is in disrepair, including missing shingles and large holes in the parking lot.
As for why the partners are building their first franchise in Kingsburg, Allred said, “We just love the town, and we love the location, and we think it’s a great fit for the people of Kingsburg.”
Despite the restaurant being on Kingsburg’s main drag off Highway 99, Allred said the new O’Sullivan’s primary customer base isn’t expected to be commuters or vacationers rolling off the highway, but rather local residents.
Across Sierra Street and slightly east, the former Jack in the Box restaurant that closed about a year ago has since been turned into a Robertito’s Taco Shop, which opened March 11.
That brings to 15 the number of restaurants for the Valley-based chain that also has locations in Fresno, Clovis and Kerman.
About a block west of the new Robertito’s, a former Burger King restaurant has sat empty for about three years in the parking lot of Kingsburg’s Kmart Shopping Center.
While the Kmart is set to close after March 26 the restaurant seems slated for a new life, as the building is in escrow for purchase.
As for the new owner’s plans for the property, Jolene Polyack, Kingsburg’s economic development coordinator, said, “The person who’s getting it hasn’t made an announcement yet. It’s going to be a restaurant.”