Sonic Drive-In Breaks Ground

Cinnaminson residents will now have a reason to stay put in their cars.

When Nolan Aspell was growing up in Hainesport, his first after-school job was working at the Country House Restaurant in Pemberton, owned by his family for 16 years before selling in 1996.  

Simultaneously, the Aspell family owned PMG Food Services—a company providing lunches to Burlington County schools, including Cinnaminson—for over 20 years. 

Throughout college, Aspell spent summers working in other restaurants before returning to the family business after receiving a psychology degree from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

“All we’ve ever done is wait on people,” Aspell, 31, says. “We love the food-service industry.” 

Last week, Aspell and his family broke ground in front of the now-shuttered Vanity Fair Outlet store in the shopping center on Route 130 and Riverton Road to begin construction on a Sonic Drive-In slated to open mid-December.  

The new Sonic will sit on an acre-sized padsite in a mall that has had trouble keeping businesses anchored. , a mattress store and a dollar store have also closed in the last couple of years.  

Long-time tenants Brothers Pizza and Elegant Lady still remain. 

But, last March, opened to mostly favorable reviews producing high-volume traffic among the mostly closed emporiums.

Aspell believes that Cinnaminson will be receptive to the carhop-style service which Sonic brings to neighborhoods.  

From the days when he and his sister attended Holy Cross High School in Delran, Aspell is quite familiar with the Cinnaminson area and has gotten to know his future customer base. 

“There isn’t another Sonic nearby,” Aspell says, who owns another Sonic in Hainesport. “The restaurant will be in a prime location, and we think it will be popular with the locals.”

There is a Sonic Drive-In on the Black Horse Pike in Audubon, not owned by the Aspell family. 

Sonic—which operates more than 3,400 sites nationally—specializes in made-to-order fast food brought to customers by a roller-skating staff, all in the comfort of your vehicle.

Favorite menu items include a breakfast burrito, Sonic burgers and footlong, quarter-pound Coney hot dogs. The company boasts that it is the ultimate drink stop—with 398,929 fountain drink and slush combinations to choose from. 

Started in Shawnee, OK, as a hamburger and root beer stand in 1953, franchise fees are $45,000 with initial investments beginning at $710,000, according to the Sonic website.

The Cinnaminson Sonic will feature 16 drive-in stalls, a patio ordering station and a drive-thru window. The restaurant will likely hire 80 employees—with the skating staff undergoing complete training prior to rolling orders to the kitchen. 

Cinnaminson Zoning Officer John Marshall says the Aspell family experienced stumbling blocks throughout the project, but they persevered through problems associated with the shopping center and their own personal loss.

Acme Markets and Kimco Realty each own respective parcels of the shopping center. 

“Because the two landlords [Acme and Kimco] were in disagreement with reciprocal rights,” Marshall says, “the Aspell family was delayed in their groundbreaking. But they stuck with us.” 

And in September, shortly after the Sonic national convention, Ron Aspell, the patriarch of the family died. 

Aspell says he is looking forward to working on community projects aimed at donating money to the community and schools as part of the mission of the parent company.

“We have had some struggles,” Aspell says. “But we are anxious to hire locals and get our restaurant open.”


Editor's note: On Monday night, township committee members announced a new tenant has signed a letter of agreement to occupy the space where Vanity Fair closed. The announcement revealing the tenant should be made this week, according to Anthony Minniti, director of economic development. Stay with Patch for up-to-the-minute updates.

Christina Paciolla (Editor) October 18, 2011 at 04:15 PM
I, for one, am really excited about Sonic. MMM tater tots...
Ray Budden October 18, 2011 at 04:52 PM
I will second that! Chili Cheese Coney and a Double Stuff Oreo Sonic Blast ... okay, I better start walking some extra miles now before they open!
Felisha October 18, 2011 at 07:20 PM
oh joy just what wee need ...more conjestion...riverton road is already a race track
Nick Robinson October 18, 2011 at 07:40 PM
Kathie Nolan Aspell October 18, 2011 at 08:05 PM
Thank you for welcoming us to your community!
AnoninCinna October 18, 2011 at 10:24 PM
I hope they improve the in/out from Route 130. The light on Riverton Road at the library near Manor Road is a nightmare. People making rights/lefts out of the shopping center, the bank, off of 130 all in a tight area is an accident waiting to happen.
FbS October 18, 2011 at 10:48 PM
great news! Never had a Sonic burger but can't wait to try one
Megan Kelly October 19, 2011 at 01:17 PM
I've only eaten there once and the food was good, but I really love the concept! It'll be a fun, new place to take the kids!
Ross Chatham October 19, 2011 at 02:29 PM
Sonic is health food done right
Dorothy Harris October 19, 2011 at 06:38 PM
Thank you and your family for choosing Cinnaminson for your Sonic franchise. I know my family and especially my grandchildren children can’t wait.
will smith October 19, 2011 at 11:10 PM
Glad to see Sonic coming to town plus great work by the township to help build up the Rt 130 corridor.
deerhorn October 21, 2011 at 05:17 PM
The traffic situation for that site is troublesome. South bound traffic can access the site easily enough. North bound is not so good. Leaving by Riverton Road could make a bad situation worse.
AnoninCinna October 21, 2011 at 06:19 PM
deerhorn I agree - the situation on Riverton Road is very dangerous. There are a lot of intersections at one spot there (library, bank, Manor Road, Rt. 130, jughandle, gas stations). The increased volume of traffic in and out of Sonic is sure to make an already dangerous section of road much worse. Does anyone know if any stores will go into the vacated Acme and Vanity Fair sites? Seems a shame to have 2 huge empty buildings, adding to the ghost town of deserted stores already in our town.
will smith October 21, 2011 at 08:03 PM
Is the traffic really going to be any worse than when the ACME was open? I doubt it.
Catherine Laughlin October 21, 2011 at 10:26 PM
AnoninCinna, Beneath the story is an editor's note stating that township council did announce that a new tenant had signed a letter of intent and will be moving into the now-closed Vanity Fair store. The name of the tenant should be announced shortly.
Nicole October 21, 2011 at 10:45 PM
Sonic is a unique hamburger place. Hopefully the traffic won't be such an issue but the placement doesn't look to ideal to me. As far as the name of the tenant coming to Vanity Fair Word is............... FORMAN MILLS "Stretch those bills"
Christina Paciolla (Editor) October 22, 2011 at 12:31 AM
Nicole, I'm not sure where you heard Forman Mills, but that's not something I've heard at all. I've heard some hints from township committee as to what it is and it's definitely not something like Forman Mills.
AnoninCinna October 22, 2011 at 02:28 AM
Thank you for the info. Unfortunately, that location hasn't had a good track record since Clover was there. Maybe the Buffet and Sonic will help increase traffic to a new business, but as for the caliber of store, I'm not optimistic. A "Forman Mills"-type store is yet another budget store. Why can't Cinnaminson get decent stores???
AnoninCinna October 22, 2011 at 02:32 AM
To willsmith - As far as the traffic vs. when Acme was open - consider that Sonic is a fast food restaurant, therefore likely more frequent and faster comings and goings in and out of the parking lot. Plus, that Buffet place has more traffic and cars than Acme ever did - even before a huge snowstorm! Not sure if you drive by there, but the parking lot is PACKED every night! With that and Sonic, it will be a nightmare getting in/out. Also with the possible apartment complex being built at the old Cinnaminson Home site, it would only make sense that traffic in that area will increase dramatically. It really is a tight area to accomodate all of that traffic, and seems like it would be accident-central.
Yogi October 22, 2011 at 02:45 AM
Forman Mills at The Old Vanity Fair! Please tell me that isn't true? As far as the traffic goes for the sonic "NIGHTMARE" My heart goes out to the folks fighting the sewage problems, I hope the Committee addressees this PROBLEM NOW not AFTER THE FACT!
Eddy Iannuzzi October 22, 2011 at 10:23 PM
I tend to think that as busy as this Sonic is going to be, it will at least triple the traffic that Acme had. I just hope that if it does become an issue that it will be reviewed.
Amy October 25, 2011 at 02:47 AM
Adding another business to the Route 130 corridor, excellent news! Kudos to the township committee in bringing another new business into our great town!
clifford November 10, 2012 at 09:04 PM
Well put Amy..
clifford November 10, 2012 at 09:11 PM
Having been out of town for a while, it's sad to see the Cinnaminson home gone.. Very sad..To me it was a landmark institution..


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