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Round Table in, KFC out: Angels Camp eateries evolve

One restaurant chain is out and another is back in Angels Camp after a 14-year hiatus.

The KFC restaurant at Murphys Grade Road and Highway 49 closed its doors during the weekend of Dec. 10 and 11.

A manager for the Jackson KFC owned by the same San Jose-based Wall Management, which is undergoing Chapter 11 reorganization, said the overall poor economy and Highway 4 bypass were to blame.

During the same weekend, Round Table Pizza opened for business at the Jumping Frog Plaza space formerly occupied by Blockbuster Video. It opened Dec. 8 after the franchise long ago went missing from the city’s restaurant scene.

It is one of the first new Round Table locations to pop up after the franchisor emerged from bankruptcy last month. Franchisee owners Dave and Sheila Howard already owned Round Tables in Arnold, Valley Springs and Jackson. They did not own the previous incarnation of Round Table is in Angels Camp.

“We were waiting for the right location,” Sheila Howard said. “This is the newest center here and it’s right off the highway.”

Dave Howard noted that most franchisees are downscaling, rather than expanding their operations.

“The biggest thing is we enjoy what we do,” he said. “We work a lot.”

“We’re willing to do whatever it takes to make something work,” Sheila said.

The Howards hired former Angels Camp KFC manager Pete Zakharin to head up the restaurant after Zakharin previously worked for them in Arnold and Jackson and said they may bring on a few more former employees of the closed fast-food chicken joint.

“(Pete’s a really nice guy and really great with customers,” Sheila said.

The couple have devoted a wall to nearby tourist destinations and are supportive of the city’s effort to re-brand itself “the base camp for the Sierras.”

The Angels Camp KFC is one of seven Wall Management KFC locations from Lake Tahoe to Santa Cruz that were forced to close due to subpar performance.

“The economy just was so bad that it forced this company into bankruptcy,” said Derrick Anderson, who manages the Jackson KFC, the last one standing from the Wall Management holdings. “The Angels Camp store, it just couldn’t pay its own bills.”

The store underwent some remodeling in 2008 and installed a new sign package, said Angels Camp Planning Director David Hanham.

“They tried to put some money into it,” Hanham said.

Anderson said the bypass marked the beginning of the end.

“It affected our business by a big percentage,” he said. “As soon as it opened, we saw a lot less foot traffic.”

By the fall 2010, a McDonalds opened in the Jumping Frog Plaza, which sits at the new intersection of highways 4 and 49 after the bypass work finished.

“Once McDonalds was allowed to go in,” Anderson said, “our fate was pretty much sealed.”

KFC has implemented new demographic standards for allowing a franchise to open, he said, and those standards will likely prevent a KFC from opening in Angels Camp under new ownership.

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