Elsa’s restaurant may close, Sheetz may open at Centerville site

Elsa’s looking for new location; Sheetz gas station, restaurant, convenience store chain has contract to buy Elsa’s property

The Elsa’s Mexican Restaurant on Far Hills Avenue in Centerville will close if a pending business transaction is completed, and the Sheetz gas station, convenience store and restaurant chain would demolish the building and build a new store on the site.

Jason Hemmert, whose family has owned the local Elsa’s chain of restaurants for decades, said they are actively looking for a new location to continue “Elsa’s South” in the same vicinity.

“Yes there is a contract in place for the property to be sold,” Hemmert said of the 6318 Far Hills Ave. site, just north of I-675. “That process has taken a long time and will continue to take quite a while. If in fact it does go through, then yes, Elsa’s South would close in this location.”

A major site plan for the new Sheetz store has been submitted to the city of Centerville by commercial real estate development firm Skilken Gold, which has represented Sheetz in efforts to open several other stores in the Dayton market.

Centerville’s Planning Commission reviewed the major site plan for the Sheetz project on Dec. 13, according to city officials. But the applicant has to resubmit its plans to address comments raised by city staff and the Planning Commission.

Joey O’Brien, Centerville’s interim city planner, confirmed that if plans move forward, it would mean the closure and demolition of Elsa’s. There is no timeline for construction at this point, officials said.

That location has been an Elsa’s Restaurant since 1981 and remains in operation today. Hemmert said it was the second in the family’s chain, after the Linden Avenue location that his father Bill and others bought in the late 1970s.

“We would know months ahead of time, if in fact this deal goes through, when we would be closing,” Hemmert said of the Centerville site. “Everybody would have notice, and hopefully there might be another place ready by that time.”

Elsa’s currently has six locations — in Centerville, on Linden and Wilmington Avenues in Dayton, the Elsa’s Sports Grill in Kettering, and Elsa’s Cantinas in Sugarcreek Twp. and Springboro, which opened in 2018 and 2020.

The Hemmert family bought the small strip shopping center that was attached to the Centerville restaurant in early 2017 and demolished most of the remainder of the stores within months. That property adjacent to the restaurant has sat vacant since then.

Skilken Gold declined to comment on the Centerville project. The application to Centerville’s Planning Commission shows a 6,138-square-foot Sheetz on the southeast corner of Ohio 48 and Fireside Drive. Sheetz’s business model includes a made-to-order restaurant combined with a convenience store and gas station.

The company announced earlier this year that it planned a significant expansion into western Ohio, opening approximately 20 locations in the Dayton area over the next five years, with the first one to debut in 2024. They have already begun plans for stores in Springboro, Vandalia and Fairborn.

Sheetz’s made-to-order food menu includes specialty drinks, sandwiches and salads, which are ordered through touch-screen order terminals.

Founded in 1952, Sheetz operates 56 locations in Ohio, with an overall store count of 647 across its six-state footprint, which includes Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina. Sheetz opened its first store in the Columbus market in April 2021.

All locations are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Each Sheetz location employs approximately 30 people. The company was ranked 33rd on the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list, which was released in April.