A van branded with logos for Coach’s Neighborhood Grill sits outside the former Toots/Ham’s location on South Horner Boulevard.

UPDATE: Coach’s owner William Hodge tells the Rant that the store – which will be corporate-owned and not a franchise – is looking to open at the location by the first of November.

Hodge said he and his wife Stacy, both have ties to Sanford, having worked here in the restaurant and education fields before starting the original Coach’s ten years ago. On a recent stop to eat in Sanford with his daughter, he noticed the location and “knew it would be available soon.”

“I called and the landlord and made an inquiry,” he said. “We had an agreement in place pretty quick. They never had to even put up a ‘for lease’ sign.”

ORIGINAL STORY: Based on nothing more than comments on social media and our own web traffic, Toots – a sports bar and grill which opened at the former Ham’s location on South Horner Boulevard in August of 2017 – was possibly the most anticipated restaurant in Sanford history.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. The restaurant has been closed since at least early summer, not long after its owner was charged by state Alcohol Law Enforcement agents with selling alcohol illegally (subscription required).

But it appears that a growing North Carolina-based chain restaurant could at least have interest in the property. A van branded with logos for Asheboro-based Coach’s Neighborhood Grill has been spotted in recent days in the building’s parking lot as a work crew appears to be placing items from inside into a dumpster.

A message left at the phone number on the van wasn’t returned Monday afternoon, but a review of the company’s website shows it has six North Carolina locations in places mostly comparable in size to Sanford – Biscoe, Albemarle, Asheboro, Thomasville, Mt. Airy, and Lexington. A Wilmington location also appears to be forthcoming. The website doesn’t mention a potential Sanford location, but states that the restaurants are opened on a franchise basis and that the company’s “unique business model is designed to utilize second-generation locations,” which “lowers the cost and adds the potential for more candidates to own a Coach’s Neighborhood Grill”

The restaurant’s menu appears to be pretty standard sports bar fare – wings, burgers, etc. In any case, the Rant hopes the building doesn’t stay vacant for long.

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