NORTH OGDEN — North Ogden is getting something it’s wanted for a decade — a viable, sit-down restaurant in one of the city’s largest commercial centers.
The Hug-Hes Cafe opened for business Tuesday at Lee’s Marketplace Plaza. The longstanding Northern Utah restaurant already had locations in Ogden and Syracuse, and it has an express cafe in Layton. North Ogden Mayor Brent Taylor said the restaurant’s latest opening tackles two issues in the city: It fills a long-vacant property and gives citizens a unique dining option.
Located at 360 E. 2600 North, Hug-Hes will occupy the old Wingers Roadhouse Grill and Bar building.
“There have been a few (businesses) in and out of there, but that building has been mostly vacant for the better part of 10 years,” Taylor said. “(A restaurant) there has been something we’ve wanted to see happen for quite a while. Our residents have wanted it too. We haven’t really had a (dining) choice like this.”
Hug-Hes owner Blake Hawkins said the opening required a complete remodel of the old Wingers building. Hawkins said he was recruited by the city and the owner of the plaza, but told them he’d need some help fixing up the building before he would commit to moving in.
“Nothing against Wingers, but the chrome exterior had to go,” Hawkins said. “It was important we started over, with a completely new identity.”
North Ogden contributed $25,000 in Redevelopment Agency funds for the remodel and a private developer contributed an an additional $200,000. The RDA funds come from the diversion of increases in property tax revenue in particular areas so the money can be reinvested in other improvement projects.
Taylor said the process helps jump-start development and ultimately generates more tax revenue for the city.
Known for its varied menu of salads, sandwiches, burgers and American comfort foods, Hawkins opened the first Ogden location (which was just east of McKay-Dee Hospital) nearly 29 years ago.
“We’ve been around for a while,” Hawkins said. “We think this (North Ogden) location is a perfect fit for us.”
Hawkins’ son, Jordan Hawkins, is a part owner in the franchise. He was working at the new restaurant Wednesday.
“We’ve had pretty steady business since we opened,” he said. “We’re trying to provide something (North Ogden) residents can get behind.”
Parking at the plaza has been an issue, Taylor said, but the city is working with a landowner who owns a chunk of undeveloped land immediately west of it to provide some additional parking.
“Parking is definitely a concern, but we’re working to address that,” he said.
Taylor said Hug-Hes and several other recent business openings are a sign the city’s commercial foundation is strengthening. The mayor said the city will soon make an announcement regarding a major tenant moving into the old Smith’s Food and Drug building at 2550 N. Washington Blvd.
That building has been vacant since November 2014, when the supermarket chain opened its new Smith’s Marketplace just a few hundred yards to the south, at 2434 N. Washington Blvd.