Leading retailer behind A26 service area plan

Leading NI entrepreneur Kenny Bradley speaks to NR about his decision to construct a Trunk Road Service Area on the busy A26 near Ballymena and lease the facility to leading independent forecourt retailer, Applegreen.

Kenny Bradley is a leading local retailer whose face will be well-known to many in the trade. He has created a chain of successful Spar outlets in the north Antrim and south Derry area as well as a thriving online wine sales operation – but now, he’s taken on a new challenge.

The multi-award-winning retailer is to build a new service area on the busy Crankhill dual carriageway near Ballymena which will then be leased to forecourt retailer, Applegreen.

Applegreen has been enjoying meteoric success of late, leading to its decision to float on the Irish and UK stock exchange earlier this year. The company recently launched itself onto the northern market, opening its first site on the M2 at Templepatrick in April. Three other sites are already in the pipeline and following a recent planning decision by the Mid and East-Antrim Borough Council, the A26 service area will now join that group.

The A26 Crankhill road is a key route, running between Ballymena and Ballymoney and on to Coleraine. It is currently the subject of a major dualling project that is scheduled to end in mid-2017.

The new Trunk Road Service Area is to be constructed on a spot which was occupied for many years by the Fort Royal bar and nightclub, which burned down in November last year.

“I bought the site four years ago when it was still the Fort Royal,” Kenny Bradley told Neighbourhood Retailer recently. “I always thought it would make a good site for a convenience offering and food-to-go, and so I started the planning permission process.

“Then we looked at what model would suit the site and we thought of approaching Applegreen; we felt they were the best model for that type of location.”

Explaining his thinking, Kenny said: “If you’re driving along the carriageway and see an Applegreen, let’s face it, you’re going to choose that as the place you want to stop and grab refreshments – these sites feature top brands and have top class facilities such as great toilets and parking. There’s a list of reasons for stopping there.”

According to Kenny, his side of the deal involves building the site, which will be leased to Applegreen who will complete the fit-out to its own specification.

Crankhill 3

Artist’s impression of the new site

It is likely to feature one or more of Applegreen’s current list of concession suppliers, which includes Chopstix, Subway, Bakewell, Lavazza, Burger King and Gregg’s.

“I don’t know what the future will bring,” added Kenny. “Applegreen is a very exciting company and offers a lot of opportunity.”

And in a climate that has seen big retailers such as Dunnes pull out of north Antrim, the promise of new full-time jobs is a welcome one for the area.

“It’s a big job,” Kenny said. “It has involved employing many different contractors. The main contractors are RJ Bradley and Construction Ltd, who developed our Magherafelt site five years ago, and the total investment is reaching over £2m.”

The site is smaller than the Templepatrick Motorway Service Station, which is termed a Motorway Service Area by Applegreen. The Fort Royal services will instead be a one-storey Trunk Road Service Area, or TRSA. However, it will still be a significant retail development.

“It’s scaled down slightly because of reduced traffic flow compared to the M2 site,” Kenny explained. “But there is lots of land behind the main site – some 13 acres in all – so there is a lot of potential to grow.”

Kenny predicted some 40-50 people will be employed at the services between full and part-time positions.

And as Kenny’s relationship with the brand continues to develop, the Kilrea-resident believes the A26 station could just be the beginning.

“In terms of working with Applegreen in the future, there have been some conversations about more projects, and yes, I see the relationship going further. I would be keen to do further business but let’s get this site out of the way first!”

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