A fast-food chain that once had a presence on one of Waukesha's busiest stretches has returned in an even busier location.

Burger King officially opened its doors in the Shoppes at Fox River on Monday, Dec. 12, in the spot previously occupied by Batteries Plus Bulbs along Sunset Drive.

The opening had initially been planned for Nov. 23, but construction – particularly in terms of plumbing requirements for converting the store from a dry-goods retail to a food service environment – caused a delay, according to store officials.

Rising again on Sunset

For Melissa Thiess, who specializes as a certified restaurant training manager for Illinois-based Burger King franchisee Cave Enterprises, the delay was a blessing. Given the practical considerations of opening a store with an entirely new staff on what would have been the day before Thanksgiving, followed by massive Black Friday crowds on Nov. 25, it might have been more than the store could handle for full customer satisfaction.

"Everyone was in agreement that with one more week (the situation would be better)," said Thiess, who has been running the store in its opening days. "We would have been open at 5:30 a.m. Friday" amid holiday crowds shopping at Target, one of the center's biggest anchors.

But she appreciated having a role in opening a restaurant that once was a familiar spot on Sunset Drive under an earlier franchisee. The previous site, which operated between the railroad tracks and West Avenue, closed more than a decade ago. (The redeveloped site is now home to a strip mall that includes Advance Auto Parts.)

"People were telling me they remember the Burger King, ... and I said, 'Yep, welcome home, we're here again,' ” she said.

Busy place

Sunset Drive has long been a busy commercial strip in both the city and town of Waukesha, but it's become even busier with the emergence of the Shoppes at Fox River on the west side, the new Meijer store on the east side, and the redevelopment of the old Kmart property in between.

The new Burger King location is part of the Cave's planned expansion in a "Midwest" zone. It currently operates about 110 stores, but has plans to operate as many as 200 stores in the not-so-distant future, according to store officials.

The new location, which seats only about 26 people, at 1180 W. Sunset Drive is smaller than the other Waukesha restaurant, also owned by Cave Enterprises, on Gateway Drive along Moreland Boulevard just east of the Les Paul Parkway intersection. But Thiess expects the site will include plenty of drive-thru and takeout customers, given the busy commercial center it's in.

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