Hey, Grand Slam Breakfast fans! Denny's is returning to Champaign after a 10-year absence.
David Kahre, who has the franchise for 10 other Denny's restaurants, plans to open an 11th this year at 702 W. Town Center Blvd.
That building originally housed Damon's and later Benningan's and Crazy Buffet.
Kahre said the target date for opening is Nov. 11-12. He hopes to hire 94 employees.
Denny's has more than 1,600 restaurants in the United States and abroad, most of them franchise operations.
The restaurants are open 24 hours a day and known for such items as the Grand Slam Breakfast and Moons Over My Hammy (a scrambled egg, ham and cheese sandwich).
The new Denny's in Champaign will have a feature other Denny's don't — an arcade featuring skills games, auto racing games, basketball games and retro games such as "Pong" and "Asteroids." It will also have a photo booth.
Plus, the restaurant will have a meeting room accommodating groups of 25 to 30, Kahre said. Total seating capacity is expected to be about 200.
Kahre's company, Pride Restaurants, is the franchisee for nine Denny's restaurants in the greater Chicago area — Hickory Hills, Oak Park, Calumet City, Hoffman Estates, Franklin Park, Oakbrook Terrace and Willowbrook in Illinois, plus Gary and Lake Station in Indiana. Five weeks ago, Pride Restaurants acquired the Denny's in Normal.
Kahre said he likes the Champaign location because it's close to Interstate 74 and North Prospect Avenue. Plus, Target, Walmart and the Carmike theater complex are "good traffic drivers for our restaurant," he said.
Denny's previously had a long run in Champaign, operating at 1902 Center Drive — on North Neil Street just north of the La Quinta Inn and across from Market Place Shopping Center.
That restaurant was open from 1980 until 2002, and was succeeded at that location by Bakers Square, which operated until 2008. More recently, that building has housed Ginger Asian Bistro and East Asian Buffet.
For the last decade, the closest Denny's to Champaign has been Denny's Classic Diner in Tuscola. Other area Denny's are in Bloomington, Normal, Gilman and Effingham.
Santa's on his way
Two new stores and eight new kiosks and carts are coming to Market Place Shopping Center for the holiday season, according to Dennis Robertson, the mall's general manager.
Christmas Creations, a holiday ornaments and accessories store, is expected to open Nov. 1 between Bergner's and Old Navy.
Teddy Mountain — a build-your-own teddy bear store — is projected to open the same day near JCPenney.
Five new carts and kiosks will go up in the Macy's wing of the mall. Go Calendar opened Thursday, and Fannie May is slated to open Monday. Coming Nov. 1 will be Custom T's, T's for Doll N Me and Name In A Frame.
Other carts and kiosks coming include: Polar X, which sells personalized ornaments, and Hickory Farms — both of which will be in the Bergner's wing — and Sportula, selling sports logo spatulas, in the JCPenney wing. All three are slated to open Nov. 1, Robertson said.
Extended-stay on campus?
JSM Development is negotiating with "one of the top two hotel companies" in the nation in hopes of bringing a 110-room extended-stay hotel to Champaign's Campustown, according to Jill Guth, JSM's director of development.
JSM has been working with the city of Champaign on plans for redevelopment of Lot J, the parking lot north of the Noodles & Company/Chipotle building at Sixth and Green streets.
Guth recently told the Champaign County Economic Development Corp. board of directors that JSM hopes to break ground for the mixed-use development in the spring of 2013, with an opening scheduled for the summer of 2014.
Besides a hotel, the development would also have 25,000 square feet of retail space on the main floor, "an apartment component" and a parking deck with 218 private spaces and 221 public spaces.
JSM and the city continue to negotiate about the particulars of the project.
Jimmy John's confirmed last week that it will open a location at Springfield and Mattis avenues in Champaign — in the front portion of the former Village Inn Pizza building.
The shop, at 1801 W. Springfield Ave., C, will be a company-owned restaurant that's set to open in late 2012, according to Mary Trader, who handles public relations for the Champaign-based company.
No other details about the store were released.
Earlier this month, this column reported that the city of Champaign had approved a building permit for Jimmy John's for $105,000 of work at that location.
Update on Taffie's
There's no word yet on when Taffie's Restaurant in Champaign will reopen, following the Aug. 26 fire that forced its closure.
Owner Jeremy Van Matre said he's still waiting on the insurance company, but he "definitely" plans to reopen.
"We're hoping maybe the middle of next month," Van Matre said, adding the kitchen has to be replaced.
In the meantime, he's trying to keep employees busy. They've been painting, rearranging things and doing landscaping at the restaurant at 301 S. Mattis Ave.
New at Prairie Fire
Prairie Fire, the new restaurant that opened Sept. 14 in the former TGI Friday's space at Champaign's Trade Centre South, hopes to familiarize customers with its new outside bar.
Its indoor bar, The Spin Zone, has been operating since the restaurant opened its doors.
But the outside bar, which Prairie Fire investor Dave Block calls The No-Spin Zone, had to wait for modifications before opening.
One of the elements was an "air curtain" — a flow of air — that keeps outside elements, such as insects and birds, from coming inside.
The air curtain is in place now, and so are sliding glass doors.
Meanwhile, Prairie Fire patrons have been able to eat on the outdoor patio, which is equipped with heaters and a fireplace.
"It gives a wonderful feeling when you're sitting outside," Block said.
Prairie Fire is open from 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday, with food service ending at 11 p.m.; and from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with food service ending at midnight.
Block said some customers had the impression that Prairie Fire was a formal restaurant, but he said that's not so.
"You don't have to be dressed up," he said. "You can come out and be comfortable in any attire."
The phone number for the restaurant — located near the southwest corner of Neil Street and Kirby Avenue — is 353-5333.
More on Wingstop
A group planning to open a Wingstop restaurant in Champaign says they hope it will be open in the next 60 to 70 days.
As reported a few weeks ago, Wingstop — known for its chicken wings and boneless wings — will be in the Katsinas Center on the northeast corner of Neil and Green street in Champaign.
It will be a venture of Chicagoland Wing Kings LLC, which plans 10 other stores in the greater Chicago area and northwest Indiana over the next five years.
One of the partners is Sunil Modi, who operates the Dunkin Donuts store just across the street.
Wingstop restaurants typically open in the late morning and remain open through midnight or 1 a.m., said another partner, Asheesh Seth.
"We aim to catch the lunch crowd, as well as the dinner and late-night crowd," said Rishal Shah, a third partner.
Shah said the Champaign Wingstop will likely employ 15 to 20 — and perhaps as many as 25 — with hiring expected to begin in the next 45 days or so.
The partners hope to open three stores this year — in Hillside, Champaign and Oakbrook Terrace — with Hillside slated to open first on Oct. 8.
Separately, Modi reports that he plans to begin remodeling his Dunkin Donuts/Baskin-Robbins stores at 515 S. Neil St., C, and at 404 W. University Ave., U, soon.
When finished, their interiors will look more like that of the newer Dunkin Donuts store at 1302 N. Prospect Ave., C. A new feature will be a wide-screen TV.
Modi said he's considering opening a Dunkin Donuts store in the Mahomet area, but that likely won't come about until mid-2013 or 2014.
More than just slots
Hot Slots in Urbana is holding a grand opening for its radio-control raceway from noon to 5 p.m. today (Sunday, Sept. 30), and racing enthusiasts are invited to stop by.
The store, at 1809 S. Philo Road, U, has long been known for its slot cars and slot car racing supplies. Now it has added remote-control racing and supplies.
The store now features an indoor remote-control race track, wireless remote-control cars and other gear.
Today's celebration will include races and drawings for prizes such as a remote-control truck.
For more information, call Hot Slots at 355-2277 or check the website, http://www.hotslots132.com .
Open house in Danville
ServPro of Vermilion County will host a business-to-business open house Oct. 12 at its new Danville location, 817 Texas Ave. — behind Schick School and Office Supply.
Business representatives are welcome between 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. that day.
Kag's BBQ will provide lunch, and prizes will be given away, including an LG 42-inch plasma high-definition television.
Dave and Sue McGuire are the owners of ServPro of Vermilion County, which does cleanup and restoration work.
Salute to teachers
Dressbarn has scheduled a "teacher appreciation" event on Oct. 6, with teachers receiving a 20 percent discount of their purchase of regular-priced merchandise.
Dressbarn has stores at 1901 N. Market St., C, (between Gordman's and Maurices) in Market Place Plaza and at 712 W. Town Center Blvd., C, in the Champaign Town Center plaza near HHGregg. Dressbarn is also at Tanger Outlets in Tuscola.
Contact Don Dodson at 351-5227 or 800-252-3346; by email at email@example.com; or by regular mail at The News-Gazette, c/o It's Your Business column, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-0677.