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September 1, 2020 | Don Sergent | Original Article

Before the coronavirus had begun to force restaurants to restrict sit-down dining and increase delivery and takeout, Spence Sheldon had that exact game plan for Bowling Green’s second Donatos restaurant location.

Sheldon’s new Donatos at 1831 Cave Mill Road opens Tuesday, and it was planned as a site conforming to social distancing norms before most of us had heard about the global pandemic.

“This is a store built more for pickup and delivery,” said Sheldon, who opened the Donatos on Fairview Avenue in 2017. “This will definitely extend our reach.

“We were taking meals to the Three Springs Road area, and that was taking a lot of time. It got to the point that we had to start telling people no. I’m not a huge fan of that.”

So, late last year, Sheldon began making plans to open a second Bowling Green location of the Columbus, Ohio-based eatery specializing in pizza, salads and sandwiches.

The Cave Mill Road location is ideal because “it’s close to so many rooftops,” Sheldon said, referring to the apartments, hotels and subdivisions near the new 6.37-acre site that will eventually be home to three other commercial tenants.

Sheldon, 28, said the Cave Mill Road store can handle indoor and outdoor seating for about 55 people, but state mandates have reduced that to around 15, heightening the need to cater to those wanting to eat their pizzas and sandwiches at home.

Aiming to deliver to an area stretching down Scottsville Road to the Split Tree Barbecue location and down Cave Mill Road and Dishman Lane to near Henry F. Moss Middle School, Sheldon said the new Donatos will employ more than a dozen delivery drivers among its approximately 20 full-time and 30 part-time workers.

Their experiences at the Fairview location have given Sheldon and Cave Mill store General Manager Nick Cataldo a blueprint for responding to COVID-19 restrictions.

“As soon as the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) came out with guidelines, we followed them,” said Sheldon, son of Republican state Rep. Steve Sheldon, a Bowling Green pharmacist and entrepreneur. “Now it’s second nature.

“It was hard to manage early on, but now it’s part of who we are. What we lost in dine-in business we’ve made up for in pickup and delivery.”

In addition to coming up with a business strategy for the new store, Sheldon is also making progress toward filling the remaining three spots in the Cave Mill Road business center anchored by Donatos.

He has a head start on filling those vacancies, thanks to his own brother.

Seaton Sheldon, a former college baseball player, is planning to open next to Donatos a franchise of the North Carolina-based RockBox fitness center that incorporates elements of boxing and kickboxing and traditional training tools like weights and battle ropes.

Founded in 2017, RockBox has 17 locations and several more in the works.

“It’s basically functional fitness along with kickboxing and punching,” said Seaton Sheldon, 25. “We won’t have the squat racks and bench press areas.”

It will have punching bags and heavy bags used by boxers, but Seaton Sheldon said RockBox is more about fitness than fisticuffs.

“We won’t be doing any sparring or competition where people hit each other,” he said. “It’s about helping people with their fitness journey.”

Seaton Sheldon said the nearest RockBox location is in Murfreesboro, Tenn., and he said that location attracts some customers from the Bowling Green area.

He hopes to have the Bowling Green location open in January.

“Now more than ever people are starting to realize that their health is something they need to focus on and be passionate about,” he said. “I think there will be a great niche for this in Bowling Green.”