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Business leaders break ground for Arkansas-side restaurant

By: Kristie Avery - Texarkana Gazette - Published: 03/05/2010

Texarkana, Ark., Mayor Horace Shipp, left, speaks to a crowd of city and community leaders Thursday morning at a groundbreaking ceremony for Copeland’s of New Orleans Restaurant. C.J. Cropper, representing the two local Texarkana investors behind Copeland’s, and City Manager Harold Boldt also gave remarks. Staff photo by Kristie AveryMore than 60 people gathered to see the dirt fly Thursday in Crossroads Business Park in Texarkana, Ark.

A groundbreaking ceremony for Copeland’s of New Orleans restaurant marked the occasion.

“There’s been a lot of time, passion and work that went into making this happen,” said Texarkana, Ark., Mayor Horace Shipp. “Thank you to everyone for your vision and making the investment.”

During his remarks, Shipp likened the restaurant’s decision to locate within the business park to another “historic” occasion.

“Think back to July 20, 1969. That was the first moon landing. Six and a half hours later, Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon,” Shipp said. “He said it was a small step and then a giant leap for mankind. How does that relate to Texarkana? Copeland’s coming in here is a giant leap for Crossroads Business Park, Texarkana, Ark., and Texarkana, USA.”

Construction for the New Orleans-style restaurant and bar is scheduled to begin in May. It will cost more than $5 million and is slated to open in September. The casual, family restaurant will seat 300 and employ 150 to 170 people.

“As we spent time working on this project, we tried to wear black so people couldn’t see us or know what was going on,” said Harold Boldt, Texarkana, Ark., city manager. “Millions of dollars were at stake here, and we hope for even better and brighter things for this area.”

Boldt said the investors responsible for Copeland’s arrival, both Arkansas High School graduates and owners of a Copeland’s in Little Rock, wanted to remain anonymous.

“We are pleased to be a part of bringing Copeland’s of New Orleans to Texarkana, Ark.,” said C.J. Cropper, who represented Copeland’s investors. “It’s a great feeling. All that has gone on at this point, all the work and times when we thought it wasn’t going to happen, the city overcame obstacles with their never-say-die attitude.”

The 8,000-square-foot eatery will occupy 2 acres near Interstate 30. A hotel/convention center complex will be behind Copeland’s. Dr. Hiren Patel was named as the hotel/convention center complex investor in January.

Two hotels operate in Crossroads Business Park— the Best Western Texarkana Inn & Suites and a Holiday Inn Express.

“The hotels are great and they bring in traffic, but with Copeland’s here, it will bring in all parts of the market,” Cropper said. “This will be the only Copeland’s in the market here for a long time to come.”

Texarkana Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Sandford said the best is yet to come.

“With all that’s going on here, how cool is that,” Sandford said. “It’s always exciting to develop on both sides of the state line, but especially here with so many dreams for the land. It’s just going to keep on getting better.”

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City gets new Italian restaurant

Owner a longtime Alfredo’s employee

By: Kristie Avery - Texarkana Gazette - Published: 03/08/2010

Mario Aguilar, owner of Choppo’s Cuisine, is seen Thursday afternoon at his new restaurant in Texarkana at 1617 New Boston Road.In 1996, at the age of 13, Mario Aguilar spent his time after school in Cafe de Roma’s kitchen on New Boston Road.

The owner, Alfredo Morina, took Aguilar under his wing, gave him a job as busboy and eventually taught him the ropes of a restaurant kitchen.

Aguilar followed Morina from the New Boston Road location to Alfredo’s Italian Restaurant downtown and later to Richmond Road.

Aguilar, otherwise known as “Choppo” thanks to Alfredo, worked for Morina for 13 years until a near-fatal car accident forced Alfredo’s restaurant to close.

The memories, and his nickname, have followed Aguilar all these years to his own restaurant, Choppo’s Cuisine at 1617 New Boston Road.

Choppo’s officially opened last Monday in the former location of Williams Chicken.

“I was working a 9-to-5 job, and I liked it but I know what I know, and that’s kitchens and restaurants,” Aguilar said. “I talked to Alfredo about opening a place now that he’s doing better and his words were, ‘Choppo, I can’t do it but if you want to open a restaurant, go ahead.’”

Aguilar said Alfredo comes in from time to time, offering help and recipes.

“I want the food to taste like the way people remembered Alfredo’s tasting,” Aguilar said.

Focus on the food, a family member said.

“The food will speak for itself. Don’t worry about the name,” said Aguilar’s wife, Maria. “The taste is still the same. The flavor Alfredo’s had is still in town here at Choppo’s.”

A Texarkana, Texas, native, Aguilar understands the risk involved in opening a new business.

“We know the economy is bad so we are keeping the prices low,” he said. “When you see a sign and realize it’s not a franchise, people may not be willing to try it. But when you see the Choppo’s name, think Alfredo’s. I don’t mind people thinking that or getting compared to Alfredo’s because if he wasn’t in the accident, his place would still be open.”

Aguilar and his wife did all they could to keep Alfredo’s open during Morina’s recovery.

“It was hard after his accident. We took his wife up to the hospital to see him, so it was hard to close the restaurant then,” said Aguilar. “But the bills were piling up. We tried to make the business go for his wife so it was hard to leave.”

Choppo’s menu offers Italian cuisine. Dishes include stuffed mushrooms, Chicken Murphy (chicken breast sautéed in sherry cream sauce with onions, mushrooms, red peppers, garlic, basil, jalapenos and pomodoro sauce) and the house special of veal, chicken and shrimp. Lunch specials are available and start at $5.95.

“If the customer requests something special, we’ll do it,” said Maria.

Choppo’s Cuisine is open form 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

“As long as customers are happy and come back, it’s OK if they think of us as Alfredo’s,” said Aguilar. “We just want them to come back.”

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Nash to have a Sonic in 2 months

Published: 03/09/2010

Staff photo by Tanner Spendley Jason Hicks preps piping for electrical wiring Monday at the future site of a Sonic restaurant in Nash, Texas. The restaurant is slated to be finished by May 6.Like other small cities in the Texarkana area, Nash will soon have its own Sonic restaurant.

During a groundbreaking ceremony Monday, Nash City Council members and the Nash Industrial Development Corp. Board of Directors gathered to toss the first shovels of dirt at the new eatery’s construction site, 1792 Kings Highway.

Construction, which started last week, is expected to be finished by May 6, said Sonic District Supervisor Shane Jones.

The new restaurant will will be 1,400 square feet and take up almost an acre of a 47-acre development site, said Mike Hamilton, an operating partner with Sonic.

Nash Economic Development Coordinator Steve Harris said the new restaurant will be great for generating sales tax revenue for the city.

Real estate developer Gerald Haire said the restaurant is in a good high-traffic area and will be on a road that will eventually connect to University Drive.

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