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Posted: June 22, 2013 8:12 p.m.

Car dealer, fish market to open on U.S. 278

Covington’s main commercial corridor continues to fill as two more empty buildings on U.S. Highway 278 are being filled by new businesses.

An America’s Car-Mart dealership is opening at the long-vacant Exxon gas station on U.S. Highway 278 at its intersection with Piper Street, while Covington Fish Market is moving into the former Edwin Bean Coffee House store, just past the Ga. Highway 142 intersection.

Arkansas-based America’s Car-Mart is a used-car seller that also finances its car sales through its partner corporation Colonial Auto Finance. The company has 142 locations, mostly in the Southeast, though only one current dealership in Georgia; plans have also been announced for a store in Rome.

Ted Taylor, director of lot expansion, said the company expects to make a formal announcement in a couple of weeks, and is excited about expanding in Georgia.

Covington Senior Planner Scott Gaither said the gas station has been vacant for several years, though a fruit and vegetable market did operate in the parking lot for a couple of years. There were also illegally-operating vendors who would try to sell wares there.

Construction superintendent Anthony Manzella with Covington-based TNT Construction was on site Friday, working on rehabbing the former convenience store. The gas station canopy was torn down this week because it was structurally unstable, Manzella said.

The 3,496-square foot concrete building was an empty shell, but Manzella is overseeing the rehab of the building; workers have already built new walls, are painting the entire building, installing electrical systems and a new heating and air condition system. The outside of the building will have new stucco, and any areas of the concrete parking lot that were ripped out will be replaced.

He estimated the total cost of the work to be around $200,000 and said his deadline is in two weeks. Manzella said he tries to hire as many local Covington workers as possible.

Covington Fish Market

Vietnamese businessman Kiet Nguyen is opening a second seafood market in the area, after opening the Crawfish Seafood Market on Flat Shoals Road in Conyers about five months ago.

He said he was opening the fresh seafood markets because he saw a local void and hoped he could start some profitable businesses after being unemployed for several years.

Nguyen said the store wouldn’t open for at least three more weeks, as it is waiting on final inspections. The market will order its fresh seafood from the Gulf Coast suppliers in Louisiana, Mississippi and elsewhere.

The building is owned by local commercial real estate firm Sunbelco. Charlie Tuller, with Sunbelco, said the store will not serve any food on site, but will provide raw or cooked seafood for takeout. Nguyen said the store can either boil or deep-fry fish upon request.

Tuller said the Covington location should see a lot more traffic than the one in Conyers.

For more information about the market, including what it sells and its hours of operation, visit crawfishseafoodmarket.com.

Copy editor Nhi Ho contributed to this report. She conducted the interview with Nguyen in Vietnamese and translated it to English.

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