After considering the Tyler market for more than a year, Freebirds World Burrito will open here this summer.
"Tyler has been an area we've been looking at for a long time," Bree Blouin, director of local marketing, said while visiting the construction site on Monday.
The build-your-own burrito chain plans to open in late June in the Times Square retail center on South Broadway Avenue.
Freebirds is renovating part of the space that formerly housed Case Ole, which closed last spring, and began demolishing the inside of the building about six months ago.
Since then, Freebirds has taken over, completely gutting the inside, giving the exterior a whole new look and building two outdoor patios.
Ms. Blouin said they have been looking for a while to bring the restaurant to Tyler and selected the location about a year ago.
She thinks Tyler will be a good fit for Freebirds because of its large base of graduates of Texas A&M University and The University of Texas at Austin — which are typically Freebirds fanatics, she said.
College Station was the first Texas town to get a Freebirds in Texas in 1990.
"This is an important city for us," Bobby Shaw, senior vice president of operations, said of Tyler. "We expect to have a lot of fanatics here that know the brand."
He said Tyler will be the 67th Freebirds in Texas, and there are 106 restaurants nationwide. Other Freebirds closest to Tyler are in Rockwall and Shreveport.
Ms. Blouin said the company plans to grow in Texas but has no current plans for more stores in the Tyler area.
Other Texas restaurants are in Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, Houston and Waco. There also are corporate stores in Oklahoma and California, and franchise stores in the Midwest and Utah, Ms. Blouin said.
Freebirds started in 1987 near the beach in Santa Barbara, Calif. when two ex-hippies figured out how to roll some awesome burritos using fresh-chopped veggies, house-made rice and beans and grass-fed beef and all-natural chicken, according to www.freebirds.com.
Four years later, Freebirds rolled into College Station, where the Aggies got a taste of the soon-to-be legendary Freebird and Monster burritos. Today, the company is spreading its wings and expanding across the country.
"Since the beginning, it has been all about freedom of choice," the website states. "Where else do you get your very own ‘roller' to help you navigate your way among the 35 trillion possible combinations?"
Ms. Blouin said they are a "scratch kitchen," making everything fresh daily.
The burrito options start with four sizes and four flavors of tortilla. Customers can choose to pack it with a variety of meats, cheeses, rice, beans, vegetables and condiments like hot sauce, guacamole and sour cream. Nachos are stacked high with house-made chips, and salads are built with spring mix and topped with ancho or tomatillo dressing.
"We're very excited to be here" in Tyler, Shaw said.
He said the store will have 25 to 30 employees, and they chose the location on South Broadway Avenue because of its proximity to the mall.
"This is obviously a main traffic lane through Tyler," he said while watching cars drive by the site on Monday. "It's a great center. There's a lot of synergy in the area."
Shirley Pyle, owner of Times Square shopping center, said the building that formerly housed Casa Ole was divided into two lease spaces.
While Freebirds will take one side of the facility, another 1,800 square feet of the building remains vacant and available for another business to rent.