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Financial Strain Closes Buck's Pizza

Owners Alan and Rhonda Basner took over Buck's Pizza in January 2011, and just 18 months later the business is now closed.

It was supposed to be a slice of the American dream -- owning a business and getting to know the community and the community getting to know you.

But, Alan Basner said trying to keep afloat was draining him financially. It had gotten to the point where he was putting in $3,000 a month of his own money, he said, "just to keep the doors open."

"You have to know when to stop the bleeding," he said. "I would never think about going into the restaurant business again, definitely not the pizza business.

"Everybody likes pizza; it just wasn't enough money."

With the departure of Buck's Pizza, there are now 10 empty spaces at Lilburn Corners, located at Rockbridge Road and Lawrenceville Highway. There is more than 38,000 square feet of empty space, including the old spot for Hibbet Sports.

In addition, there is one single space in Lilburn Corners that sits empty at 11,148 square feet -- the second-largest space available. And, where Buck's Pizza was, there are four businesses in a row that are vacant.

All total there is about 37 percent of vacant space. Basner said he's not surprised.

Mostly, the demographics were wrong, he said. People would order a $50-$80 order, and then tip 70 cents, Basner added, a bit incredulous.

"So, consequently, it just didn't make sense," Basner said. "It was just unfortunate."

Rich Dawson, the leasing manager for Lilburn Corners with Phillips Edison & Company, did not return calls and emails for comment. However, the organization advertises the shopping center as "premier metro Atlanta location" with established traffic patterns of more than 46,000 cars a day, and a growing population.

It was those kind of numbers that attracted Mike Ross, who is opening Snap Fitness there with his wife. The duo finalized their contract at about the same time that Basner was closing up the pizza shop.

At 4,407 square feet, Snap Fitness will be one of the larger businesses at Lilburn Corners. A grand opening is planned for August 11 for the 24-hour fitness facility, which also will be offering introductory offers. 

Using a customer-first model, Ross is hoping to do well in Lilburn.

"This is more than what the typical health club offers, especially in our price range," he said in a press statement, "but we earn customers for life because they see results and feel the difference in their lives."

If everything goes well, the Ross family said it also may expand its business.

But, for Basner, those days in the Lilburn area are over. Too bad, he said, because they had recently made "leaps and bounds" in renovations.

"It was just unfortunate," he repeated. "Lots of good things (are) happening in our family. We've done a lot in Lilburn. We've lived here for going on 30 years, so we've seen it go through lots of changes."

Closing Buck's Pizza is one change they did not anticipate.

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