Tupelo Oby’s owner waits for economy to improve

TUPELO – The Tupelo Redevelopment Agency board is discussing what to do with the Oby’s property in Fairpark after waiting for almost three years for the restaurant owners to develop the land.
One of the options is buying the land back from franchise owners David Calhoun and Ayers Spencer, who say they still want to build in Tupelo when the economy picks up.
The buyback option is built into most of the contracts for Fairpark. The property owner has two years to start construction on the property. If construction isn’t started within two years, TRA has 12 months to buy the land back for the original sales price.
TRA’s buyback period runs out Nov. 27 for Oby’s. The board went into executive session at its meeting last week to discuss possible changes to the contract. No vote was taken.
“At this time, we’ve not made a decision either way,” said TRA Chairman John Oxford.
The Oby’s property is on Main Street, across the street from the Hilton Garden Inn and just west of the Renasant Center for IDEAs. The restaurant would be similar to Calhoun and Spencer’s first franchise in Oxford.
Calhoun on Monday said he still has plans to open the restaurant in Tupelo, but he’s waiting for the economy to improve. He said the recent closings of Santa Fe Cattle Co. and Boondocks reinforce his decision to delay.
“If it’s not thriving right now, it’s not the time to put $2 million into a restaurant,” Calhoun said. “We don’t want to open a business that will fail.”
He added that sales are flat at the Oxford restaurant.
Oxford said Calhoun continues to tell TRA he is “committed to coming to Tupelo” and is not interested in selling the property back.
The buyback clause was included in the contracts for multiple reasons, including acting as a discouragement to land prospectors who wanted to buy up land, not develop it and sell it when property values increased.
Oxford said he doesn’t think that’s the case with Oby’s. Plus, no offers have been made for the property, he said.
Oxford said city attorney Guy Mitchell is investigating extending the buyback period.
“For now, we are kind of in a wait-and-hold pattern,” Oxford said.

Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or carlie.kollath@djournal.com.

Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal