SELINSGROVE - The Routes 11-15 strip north of Selinsgrove is seeing a surge of new businesses, including Texas Roadhouse restaurant and Community Aid thrift shop, both set to open this week.

Jim Barbarich, interim president and chairman of the Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce, said it's setting up to be a huge year.

"It was a little gloomy for a while" because of the economy, he said. "It's nice to see construction vehicles moving and buildings being erected."

Largest of its kind

The 501c(3) nonprofit thrift shop, located at 1070 N. Susquehanna Trail in the former Value City lot, opens at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

It will be the largest of its kind in the U.S. at more than 74,000 square feet, said executive director and Community Aid founder Glen Chandler. The store will employ 70 people, including 28 full-time initially, he said.

Community Aid's primary purpose is to raise funds for distribution to schools, churches, synagogues, temples and nonprofit charitable organizations, and to improve the quality of life for individuals and families by providing clothing and cash grants.

At the same time, the company creates "good-paying jobs" and on-site training, Chandler said.

"People shouldn't have to struggle to put clothing on their kids," he said. "God needs us to help this community."

Community Aid cards for those in need can be issued by local social services to provide free clothing.

Snyder County commissioners, chamber members and the Community Aid board of directors will be present at a grand opening ceremony Wednesday. A free lunch of soda, chips and hot dogs will be given to the first 600 people Saturday.

"I think people are excited to see their favorite old Value City building open again," Chandler said. "So far, people have been wonderful."

The store will be open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

Clothing donations are needed, Chandler said.

172 employees

Located at 1565 N. Susquehanna Trail on the site of the former arson-damaged Ruby Tuesday's, the 7,163-square-foot Texas Roadhouse will employ 172 full- and part-time workers, said managing partner Jim Davies.

Texas Roadhouse is best known for free bread and peanuts, and allowing customers to throw their shells on the floor.

It will be a good fit for the area, Davies said.

"We want to give back to the community. We live in it, we believe in it," he said.

The restaurant, which seats 328, is decorated with NASCAR memorabilia and photos of country music stars for a "rustic country feel." Local high school and college sports teams will also be represented.

Texas Roadhouse has 25 other locations in Pennsylvania, said corporate spokesman Travis Doster in Louisville, Ky.

It will be open from 3 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 3 to 11 p.m. on Fridays, noon to 11 p.m. on Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays.

Other businesses

Just north of the roadhouse at the site of the former Golden Corral buffet, a Turkey Hill gas and convenience store is being constructed. And just north of Sheetz, across from the Susquehanna Valley Mall, Marzoni's Brick Oven and Brewery Co. is in its preliminary stages.

Careworks Convenient Care is also moving in soon near the Roadhouse. It joins MedExpress Urgent Care, Panera Bread and The Courtyard Theater, the latter having recently opened in the Susquehanna Valley Mall, as other new businesses along the strip. Also, Walmart recently finished its reconstruction into a super store.

And, Barbarich noted, Northwood Nissan is under new ownership and National Beef has increased employment.

With the transportation bill approved last fall, finally bringing the Susquehanna Valley Thruway project to reality, Barbarich is predicting more businesses will be established along the strip over the next 10 years.

"The chamber will be the champion," he said. "We will make sure resources are there, that we're meeting the needs of the new businesses."