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HOUSTON-In a move to expand to middle-income, high density residential areas in the Houston area, Mr. Jim’s Pizza has signed a five-year lease for its second store in the metro. The broker on the deal says the transaction closed well south of the $18 per sf originally quoted for the space, which is the former site of a Pizza Inn.

The Addison, TX-based chain took over 1,200 sf in a co-branded service station at the corner of Steubner Airline Road and Cypresswood Drive. The local owner, Toor Enterprises, Inc., has a portfolio of convenience stores and gas stations in the metro.

According to Kevin Simms, a retail broker with NAI Houston, which represented Mr. Jim’s in the transaction, the plan is to add grow via franchises to the tune of two or three stores per year, beginning in 2006. “There isn’t a hard number they’ve introduced, but ultimately, the goal is to hit 20 or so franchises in the area,” Simms tells GlobeSt.com.

The best opportunities for space in such locations are unanchored strip centers that are near plenty of rooftops. “We also want good visibilities on major thoroughfares as well as centralized access to delivery and trade areas,” Simms adds.

Simms says the goal is to move more into neighborhoods. “The trend is that other guys are moving away from the neighborhoods and are operating more regionally, but we’re trying to shift the other way,” he says.

Additionally, because Mr. Jim’s doesn’t offer sit-down service, costs can be kept down as well. “We don’t need an anchored shopping center here,” Simms says. “They could even set up shop in or near a Kroger’s. Because they deliver pizza, the best bet here is strip shopping centers.”

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