New Anna businesses thrive in the face of virus

Joshua Beathge, For the Anna-Melissa Tribune
New Whataburger and Chick-fil-A restaurants in Anna have attracted customers despite opening during the COVID-19 pandemic. [Joshua Baethge / For the Anna-Melissa Tribune]

ANNA - The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t stop people from turning out to support the local Chick-fil-A restaurant when it opened on April 16.

The Atlanta-based fast food favorite opened its first Anna outpost surrounded by lines of cars with customers eager to get their chicken fix.

Owner and operator Luke Longino thanked the community for their grace and patience as his team worked to serve the long lines.

“Grand-opening weekend was even bigger than we expected,” he said.

According to Longino, the lines calmed down some this week, allowing him to refine systems and provide faster service.

Chick-fil-A’s opening followed the eagerly awaited opening of Whataburger in the same parking lot, near the intersection of West White Street and U.S. Highway 75, a little more than a week before.

At certain points that week, Whataburger served nearly 2,000 customers an hour.

According to Anna Economic Development Director Joey Grisham, it’s been especially good for the city to have some tax revenues coming in during this time of social distancing and business restrictions.

“Overall, it’s good to see any kind of business open up, especially in the middle of a pandemic,” he said. “I think when we come out of this, we’ll get back to some normalcy.”

Before COVID-19, normalcy in Anna was growth at an unprecedented pace.

The city’s population now stands at a little more than 15,000 residents - an increase of a whopping 1,125 percent over the past two decades. Since 2014, the city has as had the eighth-fastest growth rate in North Texas.

The Anna housing market start pace is the third fastest in the Metroplex, with the number of single-family permits doubling between fiscal years 2018 and 2019.

Most of those construction projects have continued through the pandemic.

“On the development side, financing will take a hit for a few months, but I think that when we get back to some normalcy - whatever that may look like - some of the projects that were put on hold all get back under way,” Grisham said. “Of course, that is all to be determined until we know what the plan is to get back to work.”

While projects in the development stage may be temporarily on hold, those already under construction appear to be proceeding as scheduled.

March brought the Anna debuts of Starbucks and Salsa Tex-Mex restaurant. Like Chick-Fil-A and Whataburger, they are part of the 118-acre Anna Town Center Development, which is anchored by Walmart.

Eventual plans for the site include a Panda Express and a Holiday Inn Express, as well as additional retail and dining tenants.

A 23,000 square-foot ambulatory surgery center near the northwest corner of U.S. 75 and FM 455 is still on track to open in early July. The facility will include four operating rooms, four procedure rooms and an integrated gastrointestinal suite.

Just north of Walmart, the 14,000 square-foot Texoma Medical Center Freestanding ER is still scheduled to open sometime in August or September. When completed, it will offer diagnostic imaging including CT scans, X-Rays, MRIs and ultrasounds among other services.

“I think other projects like this will keep going,” Grisham said. “Obviously this (coronavirus) is going to have a big impact on everyone, but Texas and Dallas-Fort Worth in general are usually pretty strong just because of the diversity of businesses and the amount of people streaming into the Metroplex.”