BY LAUREN CARTER
CHICKASHA — Two self-proclaimed "average Joe" military service members with management skills and extensive backgrounds in the food industry have embarked on a journey that will hopefully change not only their lives but the people of Chickasha's.
Josh Woods and Zachary Grayson know Chickasha, and they know what it needs. Although they are bringing the popular food chain Interurban to Chickasha in April 2013, they are anything but a big corporate business duo.
"We're privately owned," Woods said. "We're not rich by any means whatsoever. We just want to bring a really good restaurant to town, where people's money dodesn't have to be spent in the city or Norman."
But not all Chickasha residents and business owners are welcoming the restaurant with open arms. According to Grayson, some are disappointed with the $50,000 the city gave to the project.
"The Economic Development Committee gave us the money," Grayson said. "It has been a lot of talk from local business owners, which we totally understand, saying they're upset about it. They are saying, 'We didn't get any help when we opened up,' and 'The city doesn't give us any breaks.' I was an established business owner, I would understand that."
According to Grayson, the duo approached the city and told them what they were doing and simply asked if they qualified for anything.
"Maybe some of the restaurants think their own sales taxes are working against them and that's just not the case," Grayson said. "If you are an out of towner, and rented a hotel room in Chickasha, that's where that money comes from. It doesn't come from local populous, unless for some reason they are renting a room."
Although the pair is incredibly grateful for the amount they received, in the bigger picture, $50,000 was less than 3 percent of the total project costs, according to Grayson.
"We had to apply for small business loans through the government, and we got approved through that," Woods said. "The First National Bank is funding us as well."
According to Woods, the process of being approved for a small business loan is extensive.
"We had to go before a committee of 20 guys, then they had to send it to California to make sure it was approved," Woods explained. "We also have two investors that are with us and they are giving 15 percent of our project. So they believe in us enough where they gave us money for the project."
Both investors are also from Grady County, according to Grayson.
"One's from Ninnekah and one's from Blanchard," Grayson said. "We used a local bank to keep the dollars local. We planned this from the beginning to stay as local as we can. Coming from small towns, we know how important it is to not only make money in the local venue but to keep it there."
According to Josh Woods, the Interurban coming to Chickasha will feature exciting new features.
"We're bring a brick oven to Chickasha, for brick oven pizza," Woods said. "You just can't beat it. We've also got 10 taps of beer coming, two frozen machines, it's going to be the top of the line."
Grayson explained the restaurant will try to use local beer vendors as well.
"I lived in Chickasha, and I know every bit of Chickasha," Woods said. "My son goes to USAO and my wife graduated here. My cousins graduated here, and my aunt works here. I know Chickasha needs another restaurant and that's why I've put all my eggs in one basket. It's either going to work out to our advantage or it's not."
In Grayson's opinion, Chickasha will experience a big boom in the next five years, and he is excited for what may come.
"We think the Chickasha area is just going to grow and expand, especially with all the stuff going on down here," Grayson said.
"Businesses are coming here and something is happening. Something is drawing these companies to Chickasha. So I think the real winners are going to be the people of Chickasha, because they are the ones getting more options. They're the ones that are going to have these bigger job opportunities as well."