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Eatery to take over old 4th Ave. service station

Posted at 5:31 PM, May 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-12 21:22:18-04
As the general manager of Epic Café on Fourth Avenue, Alex Hartley has helped serve coffee to locals for fifteen years. And her coffee shop is right across the street from an empty 60-year-old service station that will soon become a Jimmy Hula's restaurant.
"When I heard that it was a chain from Florida, it just kinda made me sad that's all, you know," she said. "I just want someone that's in the same struggle that we are. In our fight too."
She says she fears that a chain restaurant might open the door for more chains to move in. 
"My fear is that a Starbucks is going to want to come buy this building and it's not going to be a quaint, cute coffee shop that is really community based," said Hartley. 
The idea to bring a Jimmy Hula's restaurant came from two Arizona businessmen, David Blair and Jim Onken. Onken knows the original partners behind the Florida-based chain and approached them about opening a franchise in Tucson. 
The restaurant is island themed and specializes in fish tacos and burgers. They plan to sell beer and wine and possibly pre-mixed margaritas. 
Blair says they plan to do their best to fit in with the Fourth Avenue vibe and that he understands the concerns of neighboring small businesses. 
"It's not going to be your typical franchise where you have a regional manager who flies in from southern California and checks in every couple of weeks," said Blair. "We'll be here. We're going to have a general manager but we're going to be involved, we want it to be successful."
Blair lives in Tucson while his partner Onken lives in Phoenix. Though Blair says Onken has two daughters who attend the University of Arizona. 
The plan is to keep the original charm of the building while updating the interior to fit the needs of a restaurant. 
"We love the building," said Blair. "We're going to be able to get a nice patio outside. It still has old character, it has the garage doors that we're going to be putting glass garage doors in place."
Environmentally speaking, the building was signed off as safe prior to Blair and Onken taking over. He says there is no safety concern with the old gas pumps.
They plan to break ground on renovations in June and open for business by mid to late September. Blair estimates they will need to fill about 30 part-time and full-time positions. 
"It's a funky concept," said Blair. "It's fun, it's casual, it's island themed. It's going to fit in with what's on Fourth Avenue."