Abingdon, Maryland, is an unincorporated community just 40 minutes northwest of Baltimore in Harford County, a region home to nearly 245,000 people. Because of its prime location near Veterans Memorial Highway 24 and John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway 95, two of the county’s main arteries, the area is ripe for commercial development that can lure traffic off the interstate. Joe’s Crab Shack, a corporately owned national seafood and gift shop chain, saw an opportunity to make its own mark on the underused suburban land, and it enlisted Annapolis, Maryland-based Encore Construction, Inc. for the job.
Founded in 2003, Encore Construction is a general-contracting firm specializing in restaurant, retail, and office construction, and some of its regular partners include Au Bon Pain, Zoës Kitchen, and—most recently—Joe’s. The firm’s Abingdon build for Joe’s was scheduled to begin in October 2011 on a previously undeveloped piece of land.
The project was Encore’s second build for the dining chain, but it presented its own set of construction challenges. “This was a prototype project,” says Justin Wayson, Encore’s project manager for the job, “because it was the first of the Joe’s Crab Shack projects that used a Fullerton-made prefabricated building.”
“This was a prototype project because it was the first of the Joe’s Crab Shack projects that used a Fullerton-made prefabricated building.”
Justin Wayson, Project Manager
Thanks to the prefabricated parts, the actual construction of the Abingdon Joe’s proved to be fairly straightforward. “The entire shell of the building—siding and all—was prefabricated and put together by Fullerton, and the walls utilize a lot of wood and staining,” Wayson says. Encore also installed eight garage doors that open up to create an exterior patio area on one side of the restaurant, enhancing the breezy, beachy feel that Joe’s strives for in each of its locations.
Most important to the restaurant’s eventual operation was the kitchen and cold-prep room. The space is connected to the cooler, and Encore designed it to maintain a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The cook table at the center of the kitchen is a single 30-foot-long steel table that Wayson and his team placed in the room after the walls were built but before the interior finishes were added.
These kinds of projects are definitely different from Encore’s other areas of expertise. “Restaurants are a niche market, and not everyone can build them,” Encore president John Klakamp says. “As opposed to offices and retail establishments, restaurant construction needs to account for increased fire and safety codes, and … these facilities require larger capacities for the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems.”
Generally, Encore takes three to four months to build a new Joe’s location, but building in winter delayed the Abingdon project by a few weeks. In addition to such outside factors, build time for a project can be affected by various tenant responsibilities related to the site, including parking lot construction. “What we do outside of the site is always specific to the project, and with Abingdon we had a certified pad site,” Wayson says. “Encore performed the landscaping work at the building and sidewalks within the curb line while the landlord provided the parking lot, site lighting, and all grading.”
With only a few complications, Encore completed the Abingdon Joe’s in early 2012. It’s the sort of project the firm knows it can handle. “If you’re an inexperienced contractor trying to build a restaurant project, you run into a lot of trouble—especially financially,” Klakamp says. “But if you’re an experienced contractor, you can do very well. We are, and that’s what we strive to do.” ABQ