Rockbridge food sales graph

By Chas Chappell

Harish Patel’s Dunkin’ franchise in Rockbridge County has exceeded his expectations with $270,000 in sales since it opened in January.

The Dunkin’ franchise is one of five new businesses that opened in the past year in the county, next to the I-64 and I-81 interchanges.

Brooke Tomlin, the county’s revenue commissioner, said the five businesses will earn an estimated $4 million in profits over the next fiscal year, while adding 150 jobs in Rockbridge County.

The county also will benefit from the new businesses, with an estimated $300,000 in additional revenue from sales, meal, and real estate taxes in the 2024-2025 fiscal year, she said.

Patel said he’s so pleased with the franchise’s success that he’s planning to offer free coffee and donuts for a week sometime this fall. He said he plans to announce official dates soon.

“We really didn’t have a grand opening, so we want to make a bigger statement that we’re here and want to be part of the community,” he said.

“I might need to hire more people just to keep up with demand,” Harish Patel said.

Patel’s Dunkin’ franchise competes with the new Chick-Fil-A, Starbucks, Jersey Mike’s and a soon-to-open Tru by Hilton Hotel.

Tomlin said the businesses are a win-win. “What’s great is that locals will love it,” she said. “But we’ll also get more highway traffic from people who know the brand names.”

Tomlin said $280,000 of the $300,000 in tax revenue comes from the 6% meal tax and the 1% share it gets from the state sales tax.

She said the last $20,000 comes from a 61-cent real estate tax on Chick-Fil-A, Dunkin’ and Tru by Hilton, because all three businesses built new buildings. The other two businesses moved into existing buildings.

“When that land had nothing on it, we didn’t have much to tax,” Tomlin said. “But having not one, but three buildings – that’s an impact.”

County Administrator Spencer Suter said most of the additional $300,000 in tax money will go to improving county school facilities and buying online textbooks.

Patel said he’s on track to net over $1 million this year from his Dunkin’ franchise alone.

“People in and around Lexington found us very quickly,” he said. “I might need to hire more people just to keep up with demand.”

Voices of local business owners

Some owners of downtown Lexington businesses, like Lexington Coffee and Season’s Yield, expressed concern last fall about losing money because of the chain restaurants.

 Kacey Potter, who owns Pure Eats, said she’s not worried.

“The Dunkin’ and Starbucks will get Lexington more money by diverting highway traffic,” she said. “And that’s when people can discover us, and we can pull them into downtown.”

Patel, who owns Dunkin’ franchises in Staunton and Waynesboro, said he wants his Dunkin’ to become an integral part of the Rockbridge community. He said he sponsored athletic teams at both Rockbridge County High School and Virginia Military Institute.

“Already we have regulars, and we know their names and they’ve taken the time to learn our names,” he said. “I’m excited to see how many roots we can plant in this community in the next couple of years.”

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