A credit union office will sit on what was an all-you-can-eat buffet on Peach Orchard Road by next year.

The property at 3034 Peach Orchard Road is going from an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord to an all-you-can-bank credit union.

North Augusta-based SRP Federal Credit Union is taking construction bids for a 3,330-square-foot branch office to replace the former Ryan’s buffet restaurant, which closed in early 2016.

SRP, the market’s largest credit union, acquired the three-quarters of an acre parcel over the spring for $450,000. Its construction plans call for a full-service office with two drive-through teller lines on the back side of the property, which is sandwiched between a chiropractor’s office to the north and a Dollar General store to the south.

By my count, this would be SRP’s 19th office in the Augusta-Aiken area, which is the most branches of any financial institution in the market – bank or credit union. By comparison, the market’s largest bank by FDIC deposit share, Wells Fargo, has 15 local offices. (Although that number technically falls to 14 once the bank closes its Washington Road branch in Martinez on Dec. 2.)

It would appear the credit union is trying to better serve its southside clientele. If you take a gander at SRP’s handy-dandy online office locator, you see a huge gap between its downtown office and its branch on Tobacco Road. The future Peach Orchard office will sit smack-dab between the two, although it will be slightly closer to the Tobacco Road branch.

As for fans of the old Ryan’s buffet chain, they’re out of luck. The company closed its newer North Augusta restaurant on Knox Avenue just six months after shuttering the Peach Orchard Road location.

Hey, there’s always Golden Corral. And approximately 87 all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets around town.

10W-50 OFF I-20: Speaking of businesses with a plethora of locations around the metro area, we have Jiffy Lube. I’m not going to bother counting them all up because it seems the brand’s local franchisee opens a new one every few months.

The latest quick-serve oil-change joint appears to be headed to Laurel Lake Drive in North Augusta, just off Interstate 20’s Exit 5. Construction plans filed for the spot show a 6,000-square-foot store on a 1.9-acre parcel just east of the McDonald’s restaurant that fronts U.S. Highway 25.

The Jiffy Lube would be connected to the restaurant through its parking lot, which also appears to be the store’s sole ingress/egress to Laurel Lake Drive, which itself turns into a frontage road past the Waffle House to the north.

The Exit 5 location seems to be perfect for a quick-lube business: a high-traffic, high-visibility tract in a growing commercial corridor with potential to attract interstate travelers. But part of me believes the development is a “defensive” play against new competitors, namely Take 5 Oil Change, a wait-in-your-car drive-through concept that intends to open a half-dozen units around town.

It’s certainly more difficult for a new entrant to make a splash when you gobble up as many prime real estate sites as possible.

The first Take 5 location should be open early next year at 3131 Washington Road, next to the Goodwill Industries campus. It will be interesting to see how the motoring public takes to an entirely “drive through” oil-change concept.

SPEAKING OF CARS…: We’ve heard it all before: New cars substantially depreciate in value once you drive them off the lot.

But do you know which cars lose more value than others? Well then, buckle up for a fantastic voyage into the heart of darkness, er, depreciation.

An analysis by the fine folks at iSeeCars.com found the average five-year depreciation rate for vehicles in metro Augusta is 45.3%, which is slightly better than the U.S. average of 49.1% (probably has something to do with not salting the roads every winter).

Of all the data they pulled, it turns out Jeep and Toyota models tend to hold their value the best in the Augusta area. The study showed Jeep Wrangler Unlimited models depreciated the least, losing just 27.5% of their value. No. 2 on the list, the Toyota Tacoma, lost 28.5%. The base model Jeep Wrangler came in third with 28.5% (although that’s technically a tie for second place) and the Toyota Tundra was fourth with a depreciation of 35.3%. Rounding out the top-5 list was the Ford Mustang at 37.3%.

Sounds legit to me. People always seem to be in the market for off-roaders, pickups and fast cars.

In the “ouch” category are the five models that depreciate the most: the BMW 3 Series (69.7%); the Lincoln MKZ (66.6%); the Infiniti QX60 (65.3%); the Audi A3 (65.2%) and the Audi Q5 (62.5%).

Although none of the above vehicles are in my driveway or on my wish list – Dear Santa: I’d like a fully restored 1972 International Harvester Scout II (preferably in factory “Bimini Blue”) – I wouldn’t be losing any sleep if they were.

One needn’t worry about pesky depreciation rates if the car is driven until the wheels fall off (which has always been my M.O.). Conversely, if you’re the type of person with the cash to buy a BMW or an Audi, you’re probably more concerned about your car’s short-term appearance than its long-term ROI.

If money is no object, drive what you like. You can’t put a price tag on happiness.

FROM THE FEDERAL FILES: You can, however, put a price tag on federal government contracts. And several local companies have scored quite a few wins in recent weeks.

Let’s start with the biggest one first: Martinez-based defense contractor Advanced Technology Leaders won two eight-figure information-technology training and support services contracts with the military.

The larger of the two, a $17.4 million deal with the Navy, will provide services to the Center for Information Warfare Training in Norfolk, Va. The other, a $10.9 million U.S. Army contract, will supply management support services to the Combined Arms Support Command Sustainment Center of Excellence at Fort Eustis, Va.

The company, whose office is at 4811 Technology Drive (behind the Martinez post office), is headed by Yvette Hanner, who has more than two decades of experience in the Army and as a Department of Defense budget analyst.

Next on the list is Augusta-based NEBA Health, a company that created the first Food and Drug Administration-approved brain wave test to help diagnose attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. It won a $1.5 million contract to supply medical equipment and supplies to the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Hines, Ill.

Finally, there’s a frequent flier on the list: Augusta Engine Parts. Its four most recent contracts to supply steering, brake system, ball bearings and hardware to the Defense Logistics Agency in Richmond, Va., total $776,796.

THINK GLOBALLY, EAT LOCALLY: My rules for international travel are pretty simple. I avoid any country that ends in “stan”; every nation with a combination of “People’s,” “Democratic” and “Republic” in its official name; any country that outlaws pork; and every Central American nation that is not Costa Rica or Belize.

That’s not to say I have a xenophobic stomach; I enjoy all types of cuisine. In fact, I’d love to someday try the Guatemalan-inspired menu items at Pollo Campero, a quick-serve chicken chain hoping to expand its Georgia footprint outside metro Atlanta.

The Dallas-based company, which grew out of a family-owned restaurant in Guatemala in 1971, recently announced plans to add 20 locations across Georgia as part of a 250-unit expansion to bring its signature citrus grilled chicken throughout the Southeast.

“There are 77 U.S. Pollo Campero locations already open or in development, and Augusta is a natural next step for the brand given its local consumer base, real estate availability and business community,” the company said in a statement.

The company said its ideal local partner will have previous restaurant operation experience and the cash to invest in at least three locations. If that describes you, feel free to contact the company.

I’ll be there cheering you on, as Pollo Campero will probably be the closest these taste buds ever get to Guatemala.

ON THE HOME FRONT: Low mortgage rates and growing numbers of home-ready millennials put many consumers in a position to buy their first homes. But those looking for a “newer” new home might have to look a little harder.

An analysis of home construction trends by home improvement website Porch.com shows 20.4% of all U.S. homes were built after 2000. In the Augusta area, that percentage falls to 16.4%.

No big deal, except a National Association of Home Builders survey in 2018 showed 31% of home buyers wanted to purchase a brand-new home. Among millennial buyers, the number was 41%.

Porch’s analysis of housing data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates and price data from the Zillow Home Value Index showed 14,420 homes in the Augusta area were built in 2000 or later. The area’s percentage of housing that consists of single-family homes is 68.6% – slightly higher than the nation’s 67.1% average.

The big difference is in pricing. The median home in Augusta is $119,292; the median home for the rest of the nation is $256,663.

The takeaway from this, I suppose, is that if you can’t find a new home that suits your needs, you’ll at least be able to find one that suits your budget.

MOVING ON: Well, here we are again at the end of another weekly bouillabaisse of business news and tidbits. This is usually the part where I wrap up things up with a sneak preview of next week’s column, pose a philosophical question to ponder or make a weak attempt at humor.

This week will be different, because this is my last week at the helm of this column. I will no longer be employed by The Augusta Chronicle starting Dec. 2.

What’s done is done, so there is little need to discuss the hows and the whys. What I will say of my separation is that it was an entirely voluntary and mutual parting of the ways. It was, as they say, business – not personal.

As for me, I hope you can understand this was a difficult decision. I’ve wanted to be a journalist since age 16, and – with the exception of a five-year detour in marketing and communications – a journalist is what I’ve been.

I don’t know what the future has in store for me, but I do know that The Augusta Chronicle will continue to be this market’s primary source of local news and information. My absence will not change that.

Before I go, I must thank the people who have made all this possible: you, the readers. You have many sources of information at your fingertips and not a lot of time on your hands to consume it.

I’m honored and humbled you chose to spend that time with me.

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