Qdoba, Chipotle coming to DuluthIf you love Mexican food, you’ll like this story.
By: Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune
If you love Mexican food, you’ll like this story.
Not only is Chipotle Mexican Grill coming to Duluth, but one of its biggest competitors, Qdoba Mexican Grill, is coming as well.
For both fast-casual Mexican food chains, it’ll be their first venture in Northeastern Minnesota.
On Thursday, Danielle Winslow, a Chipotle spokeswoman, confirmed that Chipotle would open at Miller Hill Mall.
“Yes, we’re coming by March,” she told the News Tribune from her office in Denver.
The restaurant will be located in the former Great American Bar & Grill space next to Noodles & Company, facing Miller Trunk Highway, Machelle Kendrick, the mall’s marketing and business development director said Friday. Access to the restaurant will be from the parking lot, but not inside the mall. Sport Clips Haircuts for men also will open a new location near Chipotle. Talks between the mall and Chipotle had been going on all year, and the lease is still being worked out, Kendrick said.
Meanwhile, Qdoba is looking to hire restaurant managers for its new location that’s “opening soon in Duluth,” according to its website.
Company spokeswoman Megan Wallace said she couldn’t say where in Duluth yet.
But that’s likely to be the Shops at BlueStone under construction along Woodland Avenue by the University of Minnesota Duluth. It’s Phase II of the Bluestone Commons project that began with the construction of BlueStone Lofts, a large housing complex for students and others.
“While Qdoba is currently recruiting locally, we have not yet signed any leases on properties for a restaurant in Duluth,” said Wallace, a public relations specialist.
Until then, she said, “we are unable to discuss any plans we may have for the market.”
So far, five of BlueStone’s six retail tenants have been announced: Starbucks, Sport Clips Haircuts for men (with a third Duluth location), Waxing the City, Chilly Billy’s Frozen Yogurt and Northern Communities Credit Union. All are scheduled to open in early 2014. The sixth is a yet-to-be-revealed restaurant probably offering Mexican food.
Developer Mark Lambert said this week he couldn’t comment on the restaurant just yet. But some of the announced tenants have said it will be Qdoba. And when those tenants were announced with fanfare in September, Lambert gave a clue: burrito.
Qdoba is known for its signature, San Francisco-style burritos, which are larger, with more rice and other ingredients.
Based in San Diego, Qdoba has nearly 600 restaurants, while fast-growing Chipotle, which specializes in burritos and tacos, has about 1,500 stores. Both were founded in the mid-1990s, championing the use of fresh ingredients.
While Qdoba is a relatively unexpected entry to Duluth, rumors of Chipotle coming to the city have been circulating for at least three years.
Back in 2010, rumors had Chipotle opening next to Buffalo Wild Wings on Miller Trunk Highway across from Miller Hill Mall.
No way, Beth Wentzlaff of CMRA realty said at the time. Wentzlaff, who managed the property, said then that only one restaurant was allowed in the building. Moreover, there wouldn’t be enough parking for two restaurants.
“We’ve talked to them,” she said of Chipotle. “There’s lots of other restaurant sites in town.”
Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold said then that the chain was looking for sites with good visibility and access.
“We generally don’t make announcements on restaurants until we’re close to opening,” he said. “People may find out about our lease or permit filings. At that point, we confirm.”
That point came this week, when a posting on Chipotle’s Facebook page gave it away.
A visitor to the site pleaded: “For the love of God Chipotle, will you please come to Duluth MN soon?”
“We’re hoping to get there in March,” Joe from Chipotle answered, adding an address: 1600 Miller Trunk Highway.
That’s Miller Hill Mall.