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The launch of a satellite campus to one of the largest churches in the nation is encouraging growth in Oldham County businesses.
The Oldham campus of Southeast Christian Church has hosted 2,500 to 2,900 people during worship services the last three Sundays, and has even added an extra service to accommodate worshippers.
Darin Bennett, campus administrator at SECC, said the church is doing its best to support local business and center itself in Oldham County.
The majority of worshippers are new to the church, he said. About 1,100 worshippers from the Blankenbaker campus transferred to the Oldham campus.
“We want to be a part of the community here. We live in Oldham,” Bennett said.
This drive to have the church identify with the Oldham crowd extends to Oldham businesses.
“We don’t want to do everything back at Blankenbaker. If we need hardware supplies for this building, we’re going to go to Stoess Hardware. We do Dollar General,” Bennett explained.
To stay on good terms with other businesses at Crestwood Station where SECC is located, the church displays reserved parking signs for those businesses on Sunday mornings and has asked parishioners not to park in those spaces.
Last week, SECC started a shuttle service to transport people to the church from a parking overflow lot at South Oldham High School.
Bennett said the large turnout bodes well for local retailers and restaurants.
“I think (the businesses) are very excited just to see that daily, weekly traffic ... Just to see life come back here,” he said.
BC Wood Properties in Lexington, a company which buys older centers and revitalizes them, owns most of Crestwood Station, with the exception of a large, empty building that once housed a Wal-Mart.
King Offutt, executive vice president of operations, said BC Wood Properties purchased the plaza in 2006, when only 56 percent of its units were occupied. Today, it is 80 percent full.
His company struggled to find a main anchor store for the plaza before talks with the church began in early 2009. Wal-Mart and Winn Dixie, the two major stores that used to occupy the plaza, left more than 10 years ago.
It may be too early to tell how many worshippers the church will maintain, but Offutt said the high traffic the church has been getting coupled with the low rent BC Wood Properties charges for units in the plaza will encourage new businesses to set up shop.
“I think it will also enable us to fill Crestwood shopping centre,” Offutt said. “Traffic is what drives retail and restaurants.”
Offut added that the new church, which has signed a five-year lease with many extension options, is a reason for his company to invest further in the plaza.
Some local businesses have already experienced high traffic because of the number of people the church draws to the area each week.
Joel Dominguez, manager of El Tarasco Mexican restaurant, has had more business than usual the last three Sunday mornings after the SECC early service. He plans to open his restaurant an hour and a half earlier than usual, at 10 a.m. Sunday.
Down the road, Hometown Pizza is catering to the post-church rush.
Manager and server Wanda Reynolds said they’ve added extra staff to the Sunday afternoon roster.
“We’re hoping that the church brings a lot of business our way,” she said.
But not all businesses have seen an influx of customers since the church moved in.
About three miles away at the Cornerstone Cafe, owner Karen Oliver has had only a few extra tables in recent weeks, although she advertised with signs and fliers near the church.
Back at Crestwood Station, Rikishi Japanese Restaurant, which opened one month ago, has had busy weeknights, but quiet Sunday afternoons.
“We are based on community support,” said owner Nad Tsevegsuren. “Maybe when the church is established I will get some more customers. Who knows?”
Churchgoers seem to be pleased with the new campus, but not all are taking advantage of business close by.
Joe and Stephanie Slaughter of Sligo attended the Blankenbaker campus, but have gone to services at the Oldham campus the past three weekends. They go out for lunch 50 percent of the time, but usually eat at the Cracker Barrel closest to their home.
They like the Oldham campus because it is smaller and offers a greater sense of community, they said.
Other SECC congregants appreciate the proximity of the church to local businesses.
Mike Murphy of Goshen said he and his wife, Shirley, prefer the Oldham campus to the Blankenbaker campus because it’s “easier to get in and out,” given the smaller church crowd. They usually eat lunch in the plaza after services and hope the church will bring more business to the area.
“We’re excited to see everything start to come back,” Shirley said.
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