Monday, May 19, 2014

Rita's Water Ice planning comeback in Bradenton-Sarasota area

LAS VEGAS -- Rita's Water Ice, known for its flavored ice mixed with fresh fruit and custard, could be making a comeback in the Sarasota-Bradenton area.

The chain once had locations at 8382 Market St., Lakewood Ranch and 4420 S Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, where the faded sign can still be seen behind a chain link fence in an unfinished strip mall.

A real estate representative for the company told the Herald that Rita's is actively exploring the Sarasota area and is in the midst of a deal there. No location has been selected. The closest Rita's to Bradenton are in Clearwater.

The Trevose, Pa.-based Rita's has 21 locations in Florida with one coming soon in Vero Beach. The chain is open seasonally in most locations from at least the first day of spring and stays open until the third Sunday in September or later. Florida is an exception as most of the locations are open year-round.

Rita's seeks locations that have 35,000 people or more in a trade area with 20,000-plus cars passing by the site each day. Typical Rita's are 1,000 to 1,500 square feet in size.

Custard competition is stronger since Rita's departed. In addition to the local SweetBerries, Freddy's Frozen Custard from Kansas has opened in East Manatee with another coming soon in University Park and Culver's will open this year near Tuttle Avenue on University Parkway plus the owners of Gecko's serve custard at S'macks at Bee Ridge Road and Shade Avenue.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Mall at UTC developer making news in Vegas

LAS VEGAS--The developer of the Mall at University Town Center received accolades Sunday for its unique mall in Salt Lake City.

The International Council of Shopping Centers announced that City Creek Center received the ICSC VIVA (Vision, Innovation, Value, Achievement) Best-of-the-Best Award winner in the Sustainable Design/Development category for 2014. The developer of the mall, Taubman Centers of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., is also developing the Mall at UTC in University Park, expected to open Oct. 16.

Recognition for the project was given to: City Creek Reserve, Development Company; The Taubman Center, Owner; Callison, Design Architect; and Hobbs & Black Associates, Inc, Production/ Executive Architect.

The winners were announced during the VIVA Best-of-the-Best Awards ceremony during RECon, ICSC’s global retail real estate convention in Las Vegas. The VIVA Best-of-the-Best Awards honor and recognize the most outstanding examples of shopping center design and development, sustainability, marketing, and community service worldwide.

The two-story mall, which opened in 2012, features a retractable roof plus 500 condos/apartments and four levels of underground parking in a downtown setting and was developed in partnership with the Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-day Saints.

“City Creek is an outstanding example of visionary architectural achievement in sustainability and innovative design,” said Michael P. Kercheval, president and CEO, ICSC. “As the industry continues its positive momentum, we will begin to see further developments in the U.S., and City Creek has set the bar for what that development will look like,” said Kercheval.

The City Creek marked the first indoor mall (kind of) to open in the U.S. since 2006 and Taubman will open the first truly indoor mall this year with Mall at UTC since 2006 as well when the Mall at Turtle Creek opened in Arkansas.

It will be worth watching to see if Taubman's Mall at UTC could win the company another award next year. The Mall at UTC's ceiling is essentially a spine featuring louvered glass and blue/purple lights that will shine into the sky while a glass elevator and open feel will give the University Park mall a cosmopolitan feel.

City Creek is a LEED certified center with streetscapes, public areas and green space, which the Mall at UTC is striving to do with its design.

Several up-and-coming restaurants targeting Florida for growth

LAS VEGAS--Several retail and restaurant chains are looking to expand into Florida this year, as long as they can find the right deal.

A summer Retail & Restaurant Expansion Guide published by Cassidy Turley shows both what mainstay companies are looking to do and up-and-coming restaurants and stores that are ready to grow.

As much as there are mom-and-pop restaurants, Florida is a breeding ground for chain restaurants. You have companies like Hooter’s, Outback, Bonefish Grill, Red Lobster, First Watch, PDQ and others all get their start here before going national.

Here is a run-down of who’s looking to come to Florida or grow beyond what they already have here. Which ones would you like to see in the Bradenton area?
  • Burger 21. Founded by Melting Post owners, it’s a new burger concept that has 12 locations open plus 18 franchise locations with several in Florida. Sarasota Melting Pot franchise owners Barry Berkowitz and Brian Marshall signed on to develop a Sarasota location but so far no movement.
  • Chuck’s Steakhouse. The Ft. Lauderdale steakhouse has been around since 1959 and opened one new location last year bringing its total up to 13 and would like to grow nationally.
  • Chuy’s Tex-Mex. The chain has 50 locations with three more planned for this year and wants “strong growth” in Florida as it also eyes California, Indiana and Virginia.
  • The Counter Burger. Based in Culver City, Calif., this family restaurant known for custom built burgers serves about 100 and has 15 locations planned this year and wants to continue in Florida.  It has locations in Aventura, Miami International Airport and Naples.
  • Elevation Burger. The Arlington, Va., company do fast casual burgers in shopping center locations and has 46 restaurants so far with 15 planned this year, including in Florida. Its only Sunshine State location is Miami Lakes.
  • F20.  Short for Fresh To Order, this new restaurant has 11 locations in Georgia and Tennessee and has two planned in the coming year, setting its sights on Florida and North Carolina. Its first Florida location is now open in Waterford Lakes—east of Orlando.
  • Firebirds Wood Fired Grill. Based in Charlotte, N.C., this restaurant has 36 locations so far since starting in 2000. The company recently expanded into Florida and are looking for more locations and have 10 planned for this year. They seat around 200 and the average per person check ranges $10 to $30.
  • Flame Broiler. Its recently opened Orlando restaurant is the chains’ third Florida locations, with about 150 restaurants around the country and plans for three new locations this year. Two other Florida locations are in Jacksonville.
  • Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill. Based in Centennial, Col., this Mediterranean restaurant has 30 locations with 20 planned this year. Its first Florida location opened November 2013 in Boca Raton and has plans for Miami-Dade and Broward counties so far.
  • Girraffas. Making the jump from Brazil, the grilled burgers and steak restaurant is going global and opened its first U.S. locations in Ft. Lauderdale a few years ago and added a second location there along with another now open in Coral Springs. Girraffas wants to continue growing in the southeast.
  • Grimaldi’s Pizzeria. The brick-oven pizza joint already has three locations in Tampa Bay and the Scottsdale, Ariz., company wants to grow with five locations in the coming year, beyond its 31 established locations.
  • Hot Head Burritos. The Kettering, Ohio, burrito joint wants to dominate Florida after having 58 locations open, with 10 planned in the coming year. Its only Florida location is in Mary Esther.
  • Leoni’s Pizzeria. They’re small, but the Fort Myers company has big ambitions to grow. They have also have a location in Naples and recently entered North Carolina. They’ve been around since 1956. What took so long?
  • Lime Fresh Mexican Grill. Based in Maryville, Tenn., the chain already has several Florida locations including St. Petersburg and Tampa though they only have 28 locations in the U.S.
  • Mooyah Burger & Fries. This brand-new company wants to start off with 60 locations in the next 12 months, including Florida, North Carolina and Washington, D.C. It wants to open 450 restaurants in 10 years.
  • Nature’s Table CafĂ©. Based in Orlando, the fast casual chain has been in business since 1978 and recently moved into our nation’s capital. Two new locations are planned this year and look for more in Florida as well as other states.
  • Pizza Patron. The cheeky Dallas-based company makes headlines in addition to pies. The company’s Spanish language ad was banned from radio networks in the Dallas market because well, they weren’t in English. Pizza Patron has 105 locations with plans for 25 more this year.
  • RedBrick Pizza. The brick oven pizza company says they can cook your pizza in three minutes. Based in California, RedBrick already plopped down in Naples, Destin and Panama City Beach.
  • Shula Burger. With five restaurants so far, legendary Dolphins coach Don Shula wants to grow beyond Florida and into major metro areas. The Shula restaurants are based in Ft. Lauderdale and its only Gulf Coast location is inside Tampa International Airport.
  • The Tin Fish. The fast casual seafood restaurant known for localizing its menus  only has 12 locations and has two planned this year and wants to grow in Florida, California, Indiana and Minnesota. They have locations in Okeechobee, two in Port St. Lucie and another in West Palm Beach.
  • YaYa’s Flame Broiled Chicken. Has 14 locations and plans for two new restaurants in coming years and looks to grow in Florida and Michigan. YaYa’s is in Clearwater and St. Petersburg so far in the Sunshine State.
  • Zinburger Wine & Burger Bar. The Arizona-based burger restaurant has three locations planned for this year, including one at the Mall at University Town Center, and wants to expand in South Florida. Zinburger has 45 restaurants nationwide.

Mall at University Town Center Dillard’s to be first opening in years

LAS VEGAS--When Dillard’s opens inside the Mall at University Town Center this fall, it will mark the first store opening in years for the Arkansas department store.

The University Park location and one planned in Las Vegas will be the only Dillard’s to open this year, and in several years, according to a retail and restaurant expansion guide by Cassidy Turley. 

The 180,000-square-foot department store will join Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue as anchors in the Taubman Centers-managed mall Oct. 16. The Las Vegas Dillard's will open the same month.

The company closed six locations in 2013, according to the report, as the Little Rock, Ark., company reevaluates smaller, under-performing stores. Dillard's closed a 64,000-square-foot store, a 90,000-square-foot store and a 195,000-square-foot store last year, according to the company's annual report.

Dillard’s left the DeSoto Square mall 2009 and it’s uncertain if the Sarasota location at the Westfield Southgate Mall will shutter in favor of the newer store. For comparison, the Southgate Dillard's is about 97,000 square feet. A Hudson's Furniture store will be replacing the DeSoto Square Dillard's this summer.

The company saw a 2 percent increase in store sales during the first quarter, marking the 15th consecutive quarter of increased sales, CEO William Dillard II stated in the company’s earnings statement.

Sales were strongest during the first quarter for men’s apparel and accessories while home and furniture sales lagged, according to the earnings report.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Crate & Barrel will stack store inside Mall at UTC

This Crate & Barrel in Annapolis, Md., is built into a Westfield
mall, but the Sarasota location will be entirely inside the Mall
at University Town Center on two levels. Photo Provided
When Crate & Barrel opens inside the Mall at University Town Center, its presence will be noticeable but not as much as some of the chain's other mall locations.

The upscale furniture store's building plans shows that the store will consume two levels of the mall. Plans also call for an elevator, escalator and stairs within the 25,800-square-foot store. Total construction cost is listed as $1.3 million, according to the application.

While the mall's mini-anchor will take out a sizable chunk of the mall, the design will  be on the smaller end of the Chicago retailer's full-line stores.

The Mall at UTC location will not have its own exterior entrance and will be fully contained within the mall, according to documents filed with Sarasota County. Having the store self-contained shaves the space down about 3,000 to 10,000 square feet off a full-line store.

The Tampa location at International Plaza features 35,000 square feet on two levels with a separate entrance when opened in 2009 while another two-level Crate & Barrel with its own entrance at Westfield Annapolis in Maryland is about 28,000 square feet. These types of Crate & Barrel stores are considered the "home store" version, offering a full line of furniture and accessories.

The mall's mock-up plans showed that the only retailers with their own entrances would the be the six  main restaurants plus the department stores--Dillard's, Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Still, the Crate & Barrel represents a few surprises in the design the mall is incorporating. After subtracting the department stores, the mall has 460,000 square feet of space to lease. As leasing is confirmed and added, the square footage totals are confirmed and allows mall management to shift spaces and locations, which is one reason why you're not hearing an exact number of stores coming to the mall, mall general manager Octavio Ortiz said during previous presentations. That number ought to be well nailed down by now because the mall is more than 90-percent leased.

This game of leasing Tetris will be in turbo mode 90 to 120 days out from opening when most smaller stores are ready to build. So come mid June, it'll be a race to Oct. 16.

He also said during a Manatee Association of Realtors meeting on March that "some" of the stores will be on two levels, hinting that Crate & Barrel might not be the only one to take up both floors, aside from the department stores.

It doesn't sound like there would be a food court, per se, but permits for fast-food joints are popping up for the mall including Mandarin Express and Cold Stone Creamery. Smoothie King representatives said early on they would commit to the mall and an area below an escalator shows a space perfect for a Starbucks kiosk.

The biggest flexibility Taubman and Benderson have is for expansion. A fourth anchor store, which likely could be Nordstrom, could be built adjacent to Saks Fifth Avenue, said the mall's general manager, Octavio Ortiz, during a luncheon in March.

Still, I don't think there's room for a water park as one reader suggested.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Darwin Brewing opens to the public on Thursday

Darwin Brewing Co. ready to open Thursday.
What could be the first and only full Peruvian production brewery in America will officially open Thursday in Bradenton.

Darwin Brewing Co., announced on Facebook that it will be open to the public starting Thursday, from 3 to 10 p.m., across from McKechnie Field at 803 17th Ave. W. The brewery regular hours will initially be 3 to 10 p.m. Thursday, Friday; and noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Brewery tours will also be offered from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

A grand opening is planned from noon to 10 p.m., May 24, too.

Santa Maria, a native of Peru who is now a Sarasota resident with his successful restaurant Darwin's on 4th, said he could be the only brewery in America making and distributing Peruvian beer. Yes, he also brews beer on site at Darwin's on 4th in Sarasota, but that doesn't make it a brewery. It's gastro brewpub, which focuses on more so food and has its own kitchen. Darwin Brewing will feature a rotation of food trucks to satisfy the hunger pains.

The brewery is in the former home of the Bradenton Press building, transformed into a modern, hip bar with garage door windows with a view of the baseball park across the street thanks to Fawley Bryant Architects in Bradenton. It will be the second brewery to open in Bradenton this year after Motorworks Brewery, nearby at 1014 9th St. W.

Saks Fifth restaurant Sophie's now hiring for Mall at UTC

Sophie's, shown in this rendering in Chicago, will open
in the Mall at UTC in October. Photo Provided
Swanky restaurant Sophie's is now hiring for top chefs and management at the Mall at University Town Center in University Park.

Sophie's is the namesake of the 2,600-square-foot dining room at the Saks Fifth Avenue set to open inside the mall on Oct. 16.

Sophie's is operated by Centerplate, which oversees hospitality, team stores and catering services at a wide range of arenas, theaters and stadiums. This will be the only second Sophie's in the world, after Saks opens its first one in the seventh floor of a Saks Fifth in Chicago this year.

Sophie's is hiring for a general manager, assistant general manager, executive chef and executive sous chef so far.

Here is some more info on Sophie's from colleague Sabrina Rocco's March 5 story:

The name salutes American designer Sophie Gimbel, who presided over couture at Saks for more than 40 years. When the world focused on fashion coming from Europe, Gimbal embraced her American style. "I like my wardrobe simple, correct, perfect in every detail," she is quoted as saying.
Sophie's menu and design is modeled after the woman herself: elegant, contemporary, sleek.
The 2,600-square-foot
space will feature an indoor, 60-seat dining room and bar as well as a 60-seat outdoor terrace for dining, lounging and a second bar. The color palette will be centered around black and white with Florida colors incorporated throughout.
Executive Chef Alex Reyes, who is responsible for Sophie's overall culinary direction, will work closely with a chef hired for the Sarasota restaurant. The menu will feature Sophie's signature salads, appetizers and drinks but will skew closer to flavors found in Florida.
To apply, visit

Read more here:

Read more here: