July 26, 2010 | last updated May 29, 2012 9:02 pm

Moe's Southwest Grill Plans Expansion In Next 18 Months

Get ready Southington and Glastonbury. Moe's Southwest Grill is coming to you before the end of the year. And seven more locations will open in Connecticut by 2011. The chain, which specializes in casual Southwestern Mexican fare, sees great growth potential in the Nutmeg State.

"We have some great franchise owners and they all have the desire to grow," said Paul Damico, Moe's president, in a phone interview from the company's Atlanta headquarters. "We have a pretty good stronghold and the market has strong demographics." There are already five Moe's in the area — Hartford, West Hartford, South Windsor, New Haven and Fairfield

Before Moe's comes to town, it looks for communities with strong national retailers, good restaurants and strong workplace operations that can provide strong catering demand. "In some of our restaurants, we exceed 20 percent in catering business," Damico said.

Drivers along I-95/Connecticut Turnpike are also going to be able to soon partake. Locations there are expected to open in 2011. Seven future stores are planned in Enfield, Newington, Stamford, Danbury, Bristol, Waterbury and Wallingford.

Not just Connecticut is enamored of Moe's cuisine. Year-over-year sales at itsestablished U.S. restaurants were up 6.2 percent compared to an industry average of 1 to 2 percent, according to Damico. "We're able to outperform the restaurant industry in tough economic times," he added. Chipolte, a competitive chain that recently opened in West Hartford Center, saw its sales increase 2.2 percent over the same time frame.

Moe's is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and has 407 restaurants in 34 states and Canada. It plans to add another 100 locations in the next year, including one in Istanbul, Turkey, that is being started by a Jacksonville, Fla., entrepreneur who liked the food so much he decided to bring it back to his native country.

The franchising fee for Moe's is $30,000, according to Damico, with a typical investment of $400,000 in setting up the restaurant. Each location creates about 25 full- and part-time jobs.

Sculptures Salon celebrated the opening of its fourth salon, its 4,000-square-foot flagship, with a grand opening at its new 262 Brockett St., Newington, location on June 12. Additional locations are in Southington, Plainville and Berlin.

The venue is the culmination of individual salon owners and their respective teams. The chain has a total of 46 stylists at its locations. Sculptures Salon has expanded by merging with local salons and capitalizing on the efficiencies of big company management resources. Sculptures Salon said that philosophy frees stylists to work on customers while leaving business management to others.

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Gengras Volvo of East Hartford was recognized as one of the region's oldest continuously-operating Volvo dealerships. On July 1, Rick Bryant, regional vice president, and Scott Grady, market manager of Volvo North America, visited the dealership to celebrate the 40-year relationship. The Volvo dealership was originally Clayton Motors on Burnside Avenue in East Hartford. In 1985, it moved to Connecticut Boulevard - where it continues to serve the Hartford automobile market as Gengras Volvo/Lincoln-Mercury. Gengras represents nine other franchises on Connecticut Boulevard, including the new Gengras Kia. Dan Johnston, a spokesman for Volvo, said Gengras Volvo is actually one of the oldest Volvo dealers in the nation.

Keith Griffin writes the bi-weekly retail column. News items can be e-mailed to him at kgriffin@HartfordBusiness.com.

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