When Breckenridge Village, at 10301 N. Rodney Parham Road, was built in the mid-1970s, it resided in what was then west Little Rock, featured a movie theater and became home to a number of upscale retailers including Barbara Graves Intimate Fashions, Elle, Forsythe’s Ladies Apparel and Greenhaw’s Men’s Wear.
The city has long since moved west past the shopping center and the upscale retailers are gone. The movie theater, Regal UA Breckenridge, remains, along with a couple of restaurants, Eat My Catfish and Mt. Fuji Japanese Restaurant & Gift Shop.
The world — and shopping — has changed and the restaurateuring Keet family and their partners, including Hank Kelley, CEO of Kelley Commercial Partners of Little Rock, have determined that Breckenridge Village will change with it, evolving into something quite different: a destination center focusing on restaurants and entertainment.
“We want to drive occupancy with restaurant-centric and entertainment-centric users,” Kelley said. Kelley and Dale “Bo” Briggs partnered with KBK-Breck LLC, a group led by the Keets, in buying the shopping center in May. Kelley’s I-430 LLC was the longtime owner of Breckenridge Village, and Kelley Commercial Partners has managed the shopping center and will continue to do so.
Since the announcement of the purchase, “the enthusiastic response has been overwhelming,” said Jim Keet, chairman of JTJ Restaurants of Little Rock. Keet is one of the “J”s in JTJ Restaurants and the father of the “T” (Tommy) and the other “J” (Jake). “We have had so many calls, each of us individually, and to a person there’s not been a single negative comment. It has all been so excited about the rebirth of the property.”
Because of this “buzz,” restaurants both local and national have expressed interest in the center, Keet said.
I am sitting in the brand-new headquarters of JTJ Restaurants, 4,500 SF in one of the buildings comprising Breckenridge, with Kelley and the Keets. The company had previously occupied about 2,600 SF in a building at 4324 W. Markham near the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
The move indicates JTJ Restaurants’ growth but also its seriousness about developing the 8.9-acre Breckenridge property, which calls for a multimillion-dollar redesign including new building exteriors, new landscaping and signage, and new entrances, along with a new courtyard with amphitheater-style seating. The Regal UA Breckenridge movie theater will remain, a part of the entertainment-centric vision and comprising 43,000 SF of the 125,000-SF center.
JTJ Restaurants owns Cypress Social in North Little Rock and a number of Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe and Waldo’s Chicken & Beer restaurants, including the recently opened Waldo’s at 4221 Warden Road in North Little Rock. Fresh Hospitality, the restaurant group based in Nashville, Tennessee, is behind the Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe and Waldo’s concepts, along with a number of other restaurant brands, including the recently launched Big Bad Breakfast at 101 S. Bowman Road in Little Rock. And Michael Bodnar, the chairman of Fresh Hospitality and a longtime associate and friend of Jim Keet, is part of the KBK-Breck LLC that bought Breckenridge.
The restaurant lineup envisioned for the shopping center, the Keets said, includes:
- Eat My Catfish, already at Breckenridge and which will remain there. Its owner, Travis Hester, is a partner in the project. (Hester is also a partner in the redevelopment of the Riverdale Shopping Center at 2500-2610 Cantrell Road, which will also feature an Eat My Catfish restaurant.)
- A Waldo’s Chicken & Beer.
- The Flyway Taproom, a gastropub owned and operated by Flyway Brewing Co. of North Little Rock. Brayan Mcfadden, the chef at Brood & Barley in North Little Rock, a project of Flyway Brewing, will be developing the menu for the restaurant, Tommy Keet said. Matt Foster and Jess McMullen are the owners of Flyway and Brood & Barley.
- A second location for DeLuca’s Pizzeria of Hot Springs, with plans for it to be in operation within the next 12 to 14 months. JTJ Restaurants and Fresh Hospitality are partnering with Anthony Valinoti, owner of DeLuca’s, on the Little Rock location and in the brand, which is planning to expand, the Keets said.
The family is also in talks with a locally owned farm-to-table restaurant and at least one other locally owned eatery — so far. And there are a couple of other possibilities, but the Keets weren’t ready to discuss those, though Jim Keet noted that they “would complement what we already have but would not compete with them, which is one of the keys.”
There are “no definite plans yet” for Mt. Fuji, a longtime Breckenridge tenant, Jim Keet said. “They’ve been a good tenant and good operator here,” Kelley said. “We want them to understand the vision of what the property will be and the cohabitants will be and see if that fits, if they want to be part of that and find a way to do that.”
In discussing the overall redevelopment of the center, Kelley said, “Part of what happens is people take space for granted until they realize that there’s a think tank behind the redevelopment of the property that’s bigger than just a real estate person that bought a piece of property. There’s a real business plan that will evolve from our interactions with the Bodnars, the Keets and the Kelley and Briggs group.
“And the great thing about it is we arranged local financing” with local banks, Relyance Bank of Pine Bluff and First Financial Bank of El Dorado, Kelley said. “They bought into the concept of local restaurant owners helping drive the redevelopment of this property.”
He emphasized that retailers and others will be welcome in Breckenridge Village, “but they’ll be a complement to the overall theme of entertainment, food.” And Jim Keet noted that Bodnar brings to the project “relationships with some very well-known, nationally known retail brands that we think are consistent with what we’re trying to do here, as well as the contacts, obviously, that Hank brings to the table through his many years in the business.”
Jim Keet sees a natural “synergy” between restaurants and the movie theater. And Tommy and Jake Keet, who attended Walnut Valley Christian Academy (now Little Rock Christian Academy) when it was located at the property, are excited about the potential for the planned courtyard at the center, envisioning a beautiful green space.
Tommy Keet said the developers see Breckenridge Village, which lies just east of Interstate 430, as a family-friendly location and “more than something you drive by, but something you drive to. A destination for the South, is what our goal is.”
Said Jim Keet: “It’s going to be something special.”