Johnny Ray’s plans to ‘test the waters’ in Columbiana

Published 3:01 pm Wednesday, February 5, 2014


COLUMBIANA — The Columbiana City Council gave its OK to a business license for a Miranda Carter, owner of Johnny Ray’s in Chelsea, who wants a six-month trial run at operating here.

Carter said she asked for the unique opportunity to “test the waters” in Columbiana by locating the restaurant’s mobile unit here and serving lunch and possibly breakfast for six months.

After that time, if sales go the way she thinks they will, she will seek a permanent location for a brick-and-mortar restaurant here.

“We need data before we can secure financing. This will give us the data we need to do that,” she said.

The city council debated whether it could approve the unusual request. Council members Ricky Ruston and Leslie Whiting questioned whether approving the unconventional business license would set a poor precedent. However, after debate, the plan was approved unanimously.

Carter said she is looking at three different locations for the mobile unit.

“We won’t be on the main strip. Columbiana is so pretty and this is a mobile unit, but we want to be visible and want to be as close to the courthouse as possible,” she said.

Carter plans to have the mobile unit operating by March 1.

“To be honest with you, I’ve looked at the Columbiana area for the past few years and was not sold on it. But after the new mayor came on board and the growth started happening there, I changed my mind. I do believe there is potential for our business to grow there. We are actually seeing things happening in Columbiana and we want to be a part of that,” she said.

Columbiana Mayor Dr. Stancil Handley said he’s certain Johnny Ray’s will be successful here, but giving Carter the opportunity to test the market is best for Columbiana, too.

“The last thing we need is for a business to come in here and close quickly because they can’t make it,” he said at Tuesday night’s meeting.

But Handley thinks the venture will be successful.

“We’ve got proven people here who know their business and who are going to provide something we need very badly,” he said.

Carter has operated the Johnny Ray’s in Chelsea for more than 10 years, and her experience with the Johnny Ray’s franchise goes back longer than that.

“We plan to serve pork and chicken sandwiches, salads, stuffed baked potatoes, and offer a daily special. We want to offer a special because people don’t want to have to eat the same thing every day,” she said.

Carter said the business will also take orders and deliver to the courthouse and limited other local businesses.

“We’ve wanted to do this for so long, and I didn’t think they would let us do this, give us the opportunity to test the waters. It shows how much they care about people and care about businesses in Columbiana,” Carter said. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”