Plans for major Chickasha project ‘coming along great,’ developer says

By Mike W. Ray, Southwest Ledger Staff Writer
 The California businessman who envisions a multimillion-dollar development in downtown Chickasha said his plans are “coming along great.”
 “We are working on the plans, designing things,” Chet Hitt told Southwest Ledger on March 11. “We are moving forward on the development. We’ve had everything surveyed.”
 “I will be back in Chickasha in a couple of weeks,” Hitt told the Ledger. He also said he plans to host a mixer, “an informal meet-and-greet with the public” on March 28, to answer questions they may have about his project.
 During a Dec. 5 meeting of the Chickasha City Council, Hitt revealed that he proposed to invest as much as $5 million in development of several businesses in downtown Chickasha.
 The entire “revitalization” project Hitt proposes hinges on acquisition of the Mill Building, he told the Ledger.
 The initial hurdle was cleared when the City Council, wearing its alternate hat as the Municipal Authority, voted Jan. 3 to declare as surplus the site known as the Mill Building and the one acre of land it occupies. The CMA then approved the sale of the building and the acreage on which it sits for $130,000.
 The buyer is a company in Apple Valley, California, owned by Hitt.
 Hitt said his Town’s End Company would establish the TE Coffee House “serving gourmet coffee” on the first floor of the Mill Building.
 The coffeehouse would feature “our special blend of roasted coffees, along with its own private label of coffee beans” for public sale. Other retail items would include clothing, soaps and miscellaneous items bearing the Town’s End and TE Coffee House brand.
 The Mill Building houses 3,802 square feet of space: 1,901 square feet on each of its two floors. The actual age of the building is unknown, but it is believed to have been constructed about 80 years ago and is “considered in fair to average condition,” according to appraiser Terry M. Peak of Elgin.
 The masonry building formerly served as a warehouse/commercial office building, Peak wrote. The first floor is unfinished, while the second floor has a kitchenette, offices, a lobby area and a vault, plus a half-bathroom, he reported. The building is plumbed forcity water/sewer service and natural gas.
 The site also includes approximately 13,500 square feet of open-air parking space on the west side and 4,662 square feet of covered parking on the north, Peak said.
 Other elements of his development package include:
• Construction of a building encompassing approximately 10,000 square feet next to the railroad depot to house the Town’s End Stillhouse & Grill, which would anchor the entire project. “It would be the heart of this project,” Hitt said.
 The stillhouse would have a 1,000-liter copper still complete with mash cooking tanks, fermentation tanks, storage tanks, and alcohol filtration and blending tanks. The still would be “showcased in a brick, iron and glass tower for maximum exposure,” Hitt said.
 The stillhouse would produce “a minimum” of half a million bottles of whiskey, bourbon, vodka and gin each year. The spirits would be distributed in the wholesale marketplace, including supermarkets, liquor stores and bars. The products also would be distributed “at the wholesale level and in the local and regional market.”
 The distillery alone would cost $1 million, Hitt said.
 “A lot” of the liquor “would be shipped back to California and to the Dallas/Fort Worth area,” Hitt told the city council.
 The bar would have an area where “people can visit and enjoy” alcoholic beverages with their friends. Town’s End would work with local and regional micro-breweries and sell their craft beers “to promote the taste of Oklahoma.”
 Hitt said he is searching for “an authentic, turn-of-the-century bar” that would be “a main feature” in the bar area.
• Buying and remodeling the Savoy, an “iconic” 120-year-old hotel “in the heart of old town” Chickasha. “We will try and bring it back to its original glory in the best way we can,” Hitt wrote in a slick, full-color, spiral-bound 12-page booklet he distributed to the city council.
 Essentially, Hitt said, the Savoy would be remodeled into “some sort of food and retail establishment” that would be called “The Savoy 1902.” Souvenirs, “artisan and other handcrafted items” would be displayed.
• Leasing the Rock Island Railroad depot as a venue for special events, banquets, weddings and outdoor events “throughout the year.” It also would be used for “farmer’s markets and artisan craft fairs.”
 Hitt said he wants to negotiate a long-term lease on the depot “with three primary goals”: to generate rental income, sales tax, and to deposit portions of the rental and lease income into a trust fund “for future long-term maintenance and upkeep” of the depot.
• An indoor/outdoor “family friendly” restaurant “presenting a variety of American food options.” The facility would accommodate 300 to 400 people, he said.
 “We also will build a large outdoor special events area, with an assortment of games such as bocce ball, cornhole, ax-throwing, etc.” The project also would include construction of “a small concert venue” to showcase local and regional musical talent.
 The entire Town’s End development would create 40 to 50 jobs initially, Hitt estimated.
 His “Town’s End” development would be located south of the U.S. 62/Choctaw Avenue viaduct in the vicinity of the “Leg Lamp” statue.
 Hitt said that for two and a half years he lived in Anadarko, where he attended high school, and was back in Oklahoma last year for the 40th reunion of his high school graduating class. “I was just driving through Chickasha and thought I might find an opportunity here,” he said. The iconic leg lamp statue was “a selling point” for him.
 He said he has lived in California for 55 years. Apple Valley is approximately 60 miles northeast of Los Angeles.
 “California has changed a lot” over the years, he said. “It’s not so business friendly.” A project such as what he proposes for Chickasha “would take five to seven years” to develop in California, he said.
 Hitt said he has business interests in California and Arizona and employs 150 to 180 people “at any given time.” He said he created a company in southern California that included six funeral homes and two cemeteries, but sold them recently. He still operates a Town’s End Stillhouse and Grill in Apple Valley.
(Used by permission from Southwest Ledger)