We continue our investigation on how a DaimlerChrysler plant, if built here, would change the Coastal Empire. WTOC recently traveled to a plant built in the mid '90s in Vance, Alabama. Specifically looking at area restaurants, they've been affected by in very different ways, and that's what could happen in the here.
An upscale restaurant called Cypress Inn has been in business for quite a while, 18 years according to owner Drew Henson. The restaurant is a 30-minute drive from the DaimlerChrysler plant that manufacturers Mercedes-Benz vehicles and it's seen nothing short of a steady stream of customers, many of which are Daimler employees.
"It's just better business," Henson said. "More mouths to feed. A real first-class clientele--they can afford to go out and have a nice dinner."
So, you'd think if a restaurant is even closer to the plant, business would be booming. We drove up the road a bit to Smitty's Soul Food, located practically in the shadows of the plant. It's only a two-minute drive from DaimlerChrysler and it's the only sit-down restaurant in the immediate area. But business is nothing compared to that at Cypress Inn, which is a much further drive.
The owner, Angela Rodgers, thinks it has something to do with what's inside the plant.
"Mercedes has their own cafeteria right now, so it's sort of...I don't think they like people to venture to the outside," she said. "They pretty much have everything there for their people."
For now, Rodgers' guests are mostly people passing through. She's only been in business for about three months, so she's optimistic things will pick-up and employees from the plant will start to come in very soon.
"Maybe with the good cookin', that will draw them this way," said Rodgers. "Cause I always say, I don't care who's cookin', they can't do it like me."
As for Cypress Inn, Drew Henson thinks business from the plant will continue and he says having a DaimlerChrysler, whether it's the one that's been in Tuscaloosa County or the one that's coming to Chatham County, is good for everyone.
"We're just real happy to have them here," Henson said. "They bring us a lot of business and they're the kind of people you really like to do business with. And I think you'll find that they're a first-class opportunity and you'll be glad to have them in the community. That's what we found."
Locally, Ronnie's Restaurant is about the same distance from the Daimler site in Pooler as the small restaurant in Alabama is from the plant there. And while that plant hasn't seen much of an increase in business, the same can't be said for Ronnie's. Owners tell us they are already seeing business from the people working the plant site.