Is Cracker Barrel coming to Fresno? Maybe, maybe not

The Fresno Bee — February 9, 2017

Social media is abuzz with the possibility that the popular Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and its restaurant may open a location in Fresno.

Will it?

Maybe. Maybe not – and there’s several reasons not to get too excited yet.

First, know that the down-home, country-style store and restaurant serving classic American dishes like meatloaf and “chicken n’ dumplins” has locations in more than 40 states. None are in California, though plenty of locals make a point of hitting up Cracker Barrel when they’re traveling.

The recent hubbub stems from a couple of people with keen eyes who turned to Facebook to point out something they saw on the website of the Marketplace at El Paseo, the new shopping center near Herndon Avenue and Highway 99. At the bottom of the page, under the heading “Coming Soon” it says Panera Bread and Cracker Barrel.

That seems like a pretty big piece of proof, but it’s not a guarantee Cracker Barrel is coming.

Why? Because Cracker Barrel isn’t confirming it, for one. When contacted about whether it was opening a location here, the company’s PR firm responded with an email saying, “We’re always considering opportunities for new locations, but we have no announcements to make at this time about opening a new store in Fresno, CA.”

The developer of the shopping center, a frequent source for The Bee, hasn’t returned phone calls.

That matters because sometimes, shopping centers and developers use names of companies they are talking to, maybe even negotiating lease terms with, but haven’t yet finalized a lease or other deal. And sometimes those deals fall through.

Remember how in 2013 Clovis was supposed to get a Chick-fil-A near Herndon and Clovis? It was talked about publicly by people in the know as if it were a sure thing.

But it wasn’t. The deal fell through and the Clovis still doesn’t have a Chick-fil-A.

Back at El Paseo, a walk past two buildings now under construction did not turn up a single worker who knew anything about Cracker Barrel. That’s an Olive Garden, AAA and a few other businesses that are being built now. The shopping center also has a second phase of development coming along Golden State Boulevard.

So until Cracker Barrel confirms it plans to come, or the developer does, it’s too early to start dreaming the hash brown casserole the chain is known for.

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