ROCK FALLS – Li Arellano closed on the property for a new Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches restaurant Friday, setting into motion plans for its opening.
The store will be at 511 First Ave. in Rock Falls, which had been home to Zuppa’s Deli until it closed in October 2012. The property then was bought by Maria Rodriguez, owner of Willy’s restaurant in Sterling.
Jerry Rodriguez, Willy’s manager and Maria’s son, said the family had a change of heart about the property.
“We were going to keep it, and we had a used equipment sale,” Rodriguez said. “But when we found someone who was really interested in it, we decided to sell it.”
Arellano and his wife, Jamie, are owners of the new store. Arellano and his father-in-law, Eric Forman, own the Dixon Jimmy John’s.
Although he says it’s too soon to confidently set a firm target date, Arellano hopes construction can begin in the next month or two and is shooting for a late spring or early summer opening.
“We’re just beginning the bidding process for general contractors,” Arellano said. “Jimmy John’s estimates construction to be a 6- to 8-week process, but that’s for a new building.”
The exterior of the building went up in 1993, and several interior renovations have been done since.
“We’ll have to do some modifications, so I’m planning for at least 2 months,” Arellano said.
Arellano had tried to open a store in Sterling before focusing his efforts on Rock Falls. After trying to reach an agreement with Sterling for more than 6 months, the plans he had for the former Auto Store, at 2402 E. Lincolnway, fell through, largely over design standards in Sterling’s city code.
Arellano said he is working through the final details to adhere to the Rock Falls city code, but said it’s nothing that has held up the process.
“The biggest delay came on the corporate side,” Arellano said. “We were waiting on the blueprints.”
Arellano said he won’t hire until construction begins. The Dixon Jimmy John’s employs 30 to 35 people, and Arellano expects the staffing needs to be similar.
Interested people can pick up a job application at the Dixon store, 845 N. Galena Ave.