New owners take over Common Grounds building, is Taco Bell moving in?

File photo

The old Common Grounds building is under new ownership.

The longtime local coffee shop officially closed in February after 18 years in business at 412 W. Dickson Street.

Former owners Kari Larson and Julie Sill sold the 3,310-square-foot space on April 21 to a company called Monroe Dickson, LLC for $1.3 million.

According to state records, Monroe Dickson was created earlier this month.

We reached out to K.C. Tucker, a local attorney who helped file paperwork for the new company, to ask for information on what the new owners plan to do with the building. Tucker told us she would forward our request to her client, but as of Tuesday morning, we hadn’t received a response.

The mystery surrounding the new ownership has fueled some pretty rampant speculation on Dickson Street.

Sources have been telling us for weeks that a Yum! Brands concept was planned to open in the building. The Louisville-based company owns Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, and other restaurant chains. We’ve reached out to the company’s media relations department though multiple channels, but haven’t received any response.

A rendering of a Taco Bell Cantina in Chicago’s Wicker Park

Taco Bell

A man part of a crew helping to clear the patio outside the building this week seemed to reinforce those rumors. The man told us he believed the space would soon be home to a Taco Bell Cantina, the brand’s new concept for urban locations with a tapas-style menu that also serves alcohol.

Taco Bell officials announced the new concept last year, and opened their first two locations in Chicago and San Francisco.

Since then, real estate representatives from the company told Shopping Centers Today that the company is in rapid growth mode, and plans to build or remodel around 600 stores this year, with the possibility of including “several hundred” of the new urban cantinas.

Fort Smith-based K-Mac Enterprises is the Taco Bell franchisee for Arkansas, and the company also operates several other restaurant concepts across the state and region. We spoke to executive assistant Terry Quarshie from K-Mac on Monday, who was unable to confirm any plans in the Fayetteville area. Quarshie promised to pass on our request to higher-ups at the company, but again, we haven’t heard back from anyone.

The cantina locations so far have operated in spaces around 1,500 square feet, which would take up about half of the Common Grounds building, leaving room for the possibility of another business (or two) to operate inside the space.

It wouldn’t be the first major restaurant chain to set up shop on Dickson Street. Large chains already operating in the area include Waffle House, Jimmy John’s, and Chipotle. But with more than 6,500 restaurants worldwide, Taco Bell would definitely be the largest chain on Dickson Street by more than double.

After a couple months of searching, we still don’t have any firm confirmation of what’s to come for the space, but there are several Dickson Street business owners who believe that some type of Yum! Brands concept is in the works.

We’ll just have to wait and see if the old adage, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire (sauce)” proves to be true.