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Sweet ‘factory’ coming to Potomac Mills



of one of The Cheesecake Factory’s 40 kinds of cheesecake?

Your drive is about to get shorter.

No, the chain that ranked among the top 10 most-wanted restaurants and retailers in The Free Lance–Star’s annual wish list isn’t coming to the Fredericksburg area.

But a Cheesecake Factory will be opening at Potomac Mills in November, along with the first Virginia location of one of celebrity chef Bobby Flay’s Bobby’s Burger Palaces and a third restaurant to be announced soon.

How did Potomac Mills attract one of seven or eight The Cheesecake Factories that the chain plans to build this year?

The company known for its extensive menu, generous portions and namesake cheesecakes picks spots in or near large, urban areas. In Virginia, for example, the only Cheesecake Factories open currently are in Arlington, Dulles, Fairfax and Richmond. None are in its development plans for the Fredericksburg area.

Brent M. Heavner, spokesman for Prince William’s economic development department, credits the county’s demographics, which, at first glance, aren’t that much different from Stafford County’s.

Both are nearly neck and neck when it comes to median income—$91,098 for Prince William in 2010 and $93,065 for Stafford, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Their rates of growth from 2000 to 2010 are almost the same as well. Stafford’s was 39.5 percent compared to 43.2 percent in Prince William. That’s more than three times Virginia’s overall growth rate of 13.0 percent.

Where Prince William has Stafford beat is its population, which totaled 402,002 people in 2010, or more thanabout three times Stafford’s population of 128,961 that year.

According to a report Washington-based The Riddle Company recently completed for Stafford’s economic development department, the county’s “most apparent challenge is the lack of population density [residential and daytime workforce]. Stafford is not competitive when you compare the total population in the top regional markets, and retailers like dense markets.”

Prince William’s economic development department didn’t offer parent company The Cheesecake Factory Inc. incentives to open on Potomac Mills’ property. It reserves those for industry and companies seeking office space, Heavner said.

But it didn’t hurt that Potomac Mills, which had been courting The Cheesecake Factory, decided to rip out a section of parking lot on the south side of the mall property adjacent to its main entrance last year and replace it with a courtyard.

“Our restaurant development team is always seeking great sites for new restaurant locations and we saw Potomac Mills as a wonderful fit for The Cheesecake Factory,” said spokeswoman Alethea Rowe in a prepared statement.

The new plaza area will be home to several new restaurants besides The Cheesecake Factory, and will provide a pedestrian-friendly pathway to the entrance between Costco and AMC Potomac Mills 18 & IMAX.

To complement the new area, the exterior of the mall’s south side will be given a contemporary facelift complete with river stone and decorative wood, along with new landscaping, lighting and updated signage. Construction is expected to begin next month and be completed by November.

Mike Sullivan, Potomac Mills’ general manager, credits the renovation, along with several new additions to the mall, with helping “to attract popular national dining and retail brands.”

Besides The Cheesecake Factory, they include Flay’s Bobby’s Burger Palace, which features 10 signature burgers inspired by the Food Network star’s travels throughout America.

“We have a very strong relationship with the landlord, Simon Properties, and we have been talking to them for quite some time about opening a Bobby’s Burger Palace at Potomac Mills,” said Laurence Kretchmer, Flay’s business partner. “We decided to wait for the redevelopment and are very excited about this being our first ‘ground up’ development of a BBP.”

He added that opening the restaurant next to a Cheesecake Factory was coincidental.

“I am sure that we have a lot of similar site selection criteria that led us both to this opportunity, but there is nothing premeditated about them and us both being there,” Kretchmer said.

Currently, there are nine BBPs, including one near a Cheesecake Factory in Lake Grove, N.Y. Another will open in Maryland Live!, a casino and entertainment complex opening in June next to Arundel Mills Mall in Hanover, Md.

No date has been set yet for the opening of the BBP in Potomac Mills, but Flay is expected to attend as he is at the opening of all his Bobby’s Burger Palaces.

Potomac Mills also is slated to get two stores in the fall of 2013 that may be in the works for the roughly 76,000-square-foot former Shoppers store at 1320 Carl D. Silver Parkway in Central Park.

They are Christmas Tree Shops, which sells a variety of discounted items including home furnishings, and buybuy BABY, which sells such infant-related merchandise as strollers and crib bedding.

Both stores are owned by Bed Bath & Beyond Inc., which has a location next to Gander Mountain on State Route 3 in Spotsylvania.

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407