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Dawson project sends ‘Chicks’ flying to Philema Road

Jennifer Keel, who with partner Suzanne Bettis owns Two Chicks Eclectic Finds establishment, is shown at her new building at 409 Philema Road. (Staff photo: Terry Lewis)

Jennifer Keel, who with partner Suzanne Bettis owns Two Chicks Eclectic Finds establishment, is shown at her new building at 409 Philema Road. (Staff photo: Terry Lewis)

ALBANY — Talk about making lemonade from lemons.

When Suzanne Bettis and Jennifer Keel, the owners of the Two Chicks Eclectic Finds business on Dawson Road, found themselves facing the loss of their retail space as part of the original plan to bring a convenience store/gas station/Dunkin Donuts to the former Mason Jewelers property next door, they started looking at options.

“It looked like they were planning to tear down our building, so we had to do something,” Keel said Tuesday. “We were coming back from a ‘picking’ expedition at Lake Blackshear and saw a ‘For Rent’ sign at this place (at 409 Philema Road). We called the owners the next day and just clicked with them.”

Now Keel and Bettis, who was undergoing treatment for breast cancer when the two opened Two Chicks and has been cancer-free for a year now, are in the process of fixing up the Philema Road property that for the past two summer seasons has been the home of Kelly’s Farm Fresh Produce. And in a creative touch worked out with the two chicks, Kelly’s fresh produce will again open during the season, sharing space with Bettis and Keel’s treasures.

“This helps both of us,” Bettis said. “We think this will open a new market for us, and certainly some of our customers will become customers of (Kelly’s). I think we’ll be in a situation where we help each other, and in this economy that’s big.”

The Two Chicks have already begun to put their distinctive creative touches on their new facility, welcoming curious shoppers who have already turned into customers.

“We plan to have a grand opening sometime in November,” Keel said, “but if anyone wants to come in and see what we have we’ll be glad to let them look. We’ve made a few sales already even though we haven’t even really started organizing everything.”

While Keel and Bettis have already found a new home for their business, officials with Lanier Oil, which sought the rezoning approved by the Albany City Commission a month ago that will allow them to locate the convenience store/Dunkin Donuts at the 2307 Dawson Road property, have already redesigned the scope of their project. Engineer Tod Lanier had told the City Commission the proposed project was contingent upon Lanier Oil’s purchase of both the Mason Jewelers and the adjoining building that housed Two Chicks and other establishments.

But the sale — and eventual demolition — of the building at 2345 Dawson Road (former home of Two Chicks) has apparently been reconsidered.

“I can’t talk about what’s happening with that building right now because nothing’s final on it,” said Bo Henry, principal of Stewbo’s Restaurant Group, which leases the adjacent Harvest Moon and The Catch restaurants. “But I’m pretty certain at this point that it will not be torn down. I actually expect new tenants there soon.”

Tod Lanier said a redesign of the Dunkin Donuts/Lanier Oil facility, which is owned by his cousin, Jeff Lanier, has been completed and the project is still “moving forward.”

“It’s not a 100 percent done deal, but I know Lanier Oil wants to move forward with this and I know the folks with Dunkin Donuts want to make it happen,” Tod Lanier, president of Lanier Engineering, said. “I think the buyer and the seller have something informally worked out, and the scope of the project has changed to include one less fuel island. It will eventually boil down to the economics of the project.”

Henry said he’d welcome the new business.

“There were some concerns with the original plan and how (sale of the 2345 Dawson Road building) would impact us and other businesses,” Henry said. “But I think they’ve about got that worked out. I know I’d love to have the service station/Dunkin Donuts next door. Hopefully this will all work out for everyone.”