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Coming full circle, Ground Round Grill & Bar is on its way back to Rochester.
In other words, the clown was right. (And now the chicken has chimed in, too.)
I reported in my weekend column that the mobile Snappy Sign display with the clown was parked in front of the former 331 Bar and Grill/ Hangar by the Rochester International Airport. Its message was "Ground Round is Coming Soon."
The official word is now that four local men — Joe Powers, Andy Chafoulias, Todd Klees and Jason Windsor — have lined up a Ground Round franchise and remodeling of the building at at 7386 Airport View Drive S.W. could start as early as next week.
They are shooting for a target opening in September. Windsor will run the new restaurant.
"We believe this will really this light the fire on that area," said Powers, who owns the nearby Rochester International Events Center and the AmericInn hotel with Chafoulias.
That airport business park has been without a restaurant or bar since 331 closed a few months ago.
"We needed a restaurant out there," Powers said. "There is a tremendous amount of growth going on in southwest Rochester."
There was a Ground Round in front of the Crossroads Shopping Center in south Rochester for many years, but it closed about a decade ago. Outback Steakhouse stands there now.
The nearest Ground Round these days is in Winona.
So why bring in Ground Round, a brand that was popular in Rochester in the 1980s and early 1990s?
"We find it to be on its way back up. People here know the name," Powers said.
In 2004, a cooperative of franchise owners bought the restaurant chain. So all franchisees now also own a piece of the overall brand.
"That's cool," Powers said. "They don't have a bunch of people in the corporate office. They have a lot of flexibility."
That flexibility, he says, includes personalizing the menu of each location, like serving walleye for fish dishes in Rochester.
Ground Round President Jack Crawford said while Ground Ground fans will find a familiar experience, the restaurant has updated its approach.
"People fondly remember the brand. We still thrive on the two-in-one concept of family dining in the dining room and a sports bar in the lounge," Crawford said. "However, it has evolved over time."
That's the idea behind Ground Round's current slogan, "We're better than you remember."
Don't expect to be eating peanuts and throwing the shells on the floor. The chain discontinued that in 2004, but every table does get a fresh bowl of popcorn.
Look for the Rochester location to open with more than 100 employees on staff, according to Crawford.
"We're really excited. This is going to bring a totally new look for that area," Powers said.