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RaceTrac brings on Wawa-style deli

Maggie Menderski/Herald Tribune

RaceTrac is upping its game with a made-to-order deli at its gas station and convenience store near the Fruitville Road and Interstate 75 interchange.

This new concept is comparable to the food counter at RaceTrac’s competitor, Wawa, and features sandwiches, wraps, smoothies and all-day breakfast items.

Guests customize and order their meals on a touchscreen and then can watch store staff prepare their food. The deli arrived about four weeks ago, according to store staff, and replaced the convenience store’s Speedy Avocado Mexican grill.

The Fruitville Road location is one of only three RaceTrac delis in Florida and one of about 10 in the country, store staff said.

RaceTrac rival Wawa has been expanding rapidly in the Sunshine State. Southwest Florida next month will welcome its eighth Wawa with the opening of its second Venice location at 2970 Executive Drive.

— Maggie Menderski, the Herald-Tribune’s retail and tourism reporter, can be reached at 941-361-4951 or at maggie.menderski@heraldtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaggieMenderski, Instagram @MaggieMenderski and on Facebook. Read What’s In Store in print on Tuesdays. 

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Earth Fare to anchor new urban-feeling development

Courtesy Tavistock.

Southwest Florida’s first Earth Fare will be a key tenant in a new urban-feeling, mixed-used development slated for Lakewood Ranch, developers said Thursday.

Tavistock Development Co., a real estate firm based in Orlando, will begin site work this spring on a 40-acre, mixed-use development within the CORE, or “Collaboration Opportunities for Research and Exploration,” project at the northeast corner of State Road 70 and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard.

The 525,000-square-foot project, known as “The Green,” will feature more than two dozen businesses in 150,000 square feet of retail, office and restaurant spaces, as well 304 luxury residences.

Tavistock has always emphasized health, sustainability and wellness, said Skipper Peek, vice president of the company. An as-yet-unnamed fitness center and the 23,500-square-foot Earth Fare, an organic-focused boutique grocer, will anchor the development.

Peek expects the retail development to be finished marginally ahead of the residential component. The Green is expected to open in early 2018.

Tavistock is targeting both nationally recognized brands and regional businesses to fill its retail space, Peek said. The idea is not to create something that’s been done over and over again. Lakewood Ranch as a whole has a very suburban feel to it, but this project will feel more urban and contemporary, Peek said. He said he expects the development to attract a wide range of demographics, including young professionals, young couples and empty nesters.

Tavistock is best known for its 17-square-mile Lake Nona project in the Orlando area, which features neighborhoods, education facilities, a medical center, and a sports and performance district.

Executives at Schroeder-Manatee Ranch Inc., the land management company behind the massive Lakewood Ranch development in southern Manatee County, have aimed for a major life-science player as an anchor for the 265-acre CORE project. The center is intended to energize the region’s relatively small but growing life-sciences sector, helping draw new employers and high-paying jobs to an economy long reliant on tourism, retirees and real estate.

The park may contain up to 4.2 million square feet of construction over the next 10 to 20 years. Plans also include a 300-room hotel and conference center. Research and laboratory buildings, four to six stories tall, would be constructed around a courtyard. Flanking them would be a cluster of office buildings.

 

 

— Maggie Menderski, the Herald-Tribune’s retail and tourism reporter, can be reached at 941-361-4951 or at maggie.menderski@heraldtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaggieMenderski, Instagram @MaggieMenderski and on Facebook. Read What’s In Store in print on Tuesdays. 

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Chicken Salad Chick offering free chicken salad Thursday

Chicken Salad Chick, a fast casual chicken salad restaurant concept, on Jan. 26 is celebrating its ninth birthday by serving customers one free scoop of chicken salad.

Each guest that visits a participating Chicken Salad Chick restaurant on  Jan. 26 will receive one free scoop of Classic Carol chicken salad, the brand’s original and most popular chicken salad flavors.

Chicken Salad Chick opened its first Southwest Florida restaurant at 7350 Cortez Rd. W. in September.

“In honor of our ninth birthday, we really wanted to express our gratitude and share our love for chicken salad by serving up a free scoop for guests to enjoy at all 65 participating locations,” said Stacy Brown, Chicken Salad Chick founder. “As a company, we’ve experienced tremendous growth and none of this would be possible without the support of our amazing customers and guests.”

The Chicken Salad Chick concept launched in Auburn, Alabama, in 2008 in the kitchen of founder, Stacy Brown. The restaurant grew into a small takeout restaurant and had since expanded to 60 restaurants in the Southeast.

— Maggie Menderski, the Herald-Tribune’s retail and tourism reporter, can be reached at 941-361-4951 or at maggie.menderski@heraldtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaggieMenderski, Instagram @MaggieMenderski and on Facebook. Read What’s In Store in print on Tuesdays. 

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Cody’s Original Roadhouse joins Port Charlotte Town Center

Cody’s Original Roadhouse is now open at Port Charlotte Town Center.

The casual, family friendly Roadhouse, the first location for Port Charlotte, and it adds a new dimension to the mall that primarily serves Charlotte and DeSoto Counties.

“Port Charlotte Town Center is thrilled to welcome the first Cody’s Original Roadhouse to the area,” said Barbara Roche, mall manager at Port Charlotte Town Center. “The easygoing family atmosphere and grilled-to-order meals are sure to be a hit with our shoppers and will enhance our diverse line-up.”

Reminiscent of a simpler bygone era, Cody’s Original Roadhouse features a casual and relaxed atmosphere and maintains a motto of “Just Plain Good Food.” Roasted peanuts are available throughout for snackin’ and crackin’.

The restaurant offers an all-American menu featuring fresh-cut, flame-broiled choice and CAB steaks, baby back ribs, fresh fish, burgers, fajitas and more.

— Maggie Menderski, the Herald-Tribune’s retail and tourism reporter, can be reached at 941-361-4951 or at maggie.menderski@heraldtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaggieMenderski, Instagram @MaggieMenderski and on Facebook. Read What’s In Store in print on Tuesdays. 

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Big Top Brewing to host campout

Mike Bisaha, CEO of Big Top Brewing Company, welcomes the class to Big Top Brewing Company. STAFF PHOTO / RACHEL S. O’HARA

Now, here’s one camping experience that should be anything but boring. The beer experts at Big Top Brewing Co. are inviting folks to bring tents and camp out in the beer garden for all-night drinking, dancing, live music, cornhole tournament and movie screening.

A food truck will be at Big Top from 7 to 11 p.m. and you don’t have have to camp to stay for the party with hours extended for everyone until 2 a.m. Then, the doors will close (lock in!) for all non-campers. On Sunday, there’s a beermosas and breakfast buffet for campers from 7 to 11 a.m. 7 p.m. Saturday; Big Top Brewing Company; 800-590-2448; bigtopbrewing.com

Wade Tatangelo is the editor of Ticket. He can be reached by email or call 941-361-4955. Follow him on Twitter at @wtatangelo or Facebook.com/wade.tatangelo

 

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First Watch adds 21 stores, converts others

First Watch added 21 new restaurants to its daytime café empire last year and opened its first stores in the Dallas, Houston and Philadelphia markets, the company said Tuesday.

The Manatee County-based chain has a 33-year history in the breakfast, brunch and lunch business, and 2016 is the company’s 32nd year of positive comparable restaurant sales growth, First Watch said.

The company also formed 10 new partnerships that will allow the chain to open 100 new restaurants and enter new markets in Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas.

First Watch has grown rapidly in recent years as it acquired comparable restaurant chains. The chain converted 19 The Good Egg restaurants in Arizona and 18 The Egg & I restaurants in Dallas; Nashville, Tennessee; and Birmingham, Alabama, to the First Watch brand. The company has owned those chains since 2014 and 2015, respectively.

First Watch bills itself as the largest and fastest-growing daytime-only restaurant concept in the U.S., with more than 295 restaurants in 26 states, which includes more than 195 First Watch restaurants, 97 The Egg & I restaurants, one The Good Egg restaurant in Phoenix and one Bread & Company restaurant in Nashville.

— Maggie Menderski, the Herald-Tribune’s retail and tourism reporter, can be reached at 941-361-4951 or at maggie.menderski@heraldtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaggieMenderski, Instagram @MaggieMenderski and on Facebook. Read What’s In Store in print on Tuesdays. 

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New Venice Wawa to open Feb. 9

Wawa will open its second Venice store at 8 a.m. Feb. 9.

The gas station and convenience store at 2970 Executive Drive, just south of the Interstate 75 and Jacaranda Boulevard interchange, will be the eighth Wawa to open in Southwest Florida. The Pennsylvania-based chain has expanded aggressively in Florida since it launched its first store here in 2012. The company now operates more than 100 stores in the Sunshine State.

Wawa is known for having a fiercely loyal customer base, cheap gas and a sandwich-shop-style food counter. The convenience chain’s menu features a wide variety of hoagies, mac and cheese, wraps, burritos, milkshakes and coffee beverages.

The grand opening will include giveaways, discounts and promotions. Other Wawas in the area typically have offered 10 days of free coffee as a way to welcome customers to new stores. A ribbon cutting is slated for 10 a.m.

The Jacaranda interchange has seen significant growth in recent years. The area is also home to RaceTrac and Speedway gas stations as well as a McDonald’s, a Dunkin Donuts and hotels.

— Maggie Menderski, the Herald-Tribune’s retail and tourism reporter, can be reached at 941-361-4951 or at maggie.menderski@heraldtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaggieMenderski, Instagram @MaggieMenderski and on Facebook. Read What’s In Store in print on Tuesdays. 

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Why aren’t boutique grocers looking at Venice?

Customers shop Tuesday, January 6, 2015 during the grand opening of Lucky’s Market at 1459 NW 23rd Avenue in Gainesville, Fla. Erica Brough/Gainesville Sun

This time next year, Sarasota will have just about everything it could ever want as far as grocery stores go.

But not everyone in Southwest Florida will feel that way. There’s still a huge void. It’s just not in Sarasota.

The upcoming Sprouts Farmers Market in Pelican Plaza and the Lucky’s Market coming to Westfield Southgate have kept me busy in recent months. Whole Foods Market, which has been downtown for more than a decade, is putting a second location at the southwest corner of Honore Avenue and University Parkway. Meanwhile, there’s a Fresh Market that’s not too far from that site and a Trader Joe’s on the south end of town where it’s that’s been hard to find a parking spot since it opened in 2012.

Sarasotans have got their pick of boutique grocery stores, but that’s not the case in the rest of the county.

I had a voicemail waiting for me when I got into the newsroom on Thursday morning. I’d written a column the day before announcing the April 12 grand opening date for Sprouts in Pelican Plaza, on U.S. 41 across from Westfield Sarasota Square.

The caller lived in Venice, and she said she’s got her choice of Publix stores but that’s about it. The community also has a Detwiler’s Farm Market, a few Winn-Dixies and a Richard’s Foodporium, but nothing quite like the Lucky’s and Sprouts stores that are cropping up just a little farther north.

South Sarasota County is growing. Thousands of homes are being built in Venice and farther south. So, our reader wanted to know, what’s the holdup? Why weren’t these grocers looking past Sarasota yet?

Venice has a collection of strip malls but it doesn’t really have a dominant retail center, said Stan Rutstein, a commercial real estate broker in Manatee County. These boutique grocers don’t want to move into outdated and struggling shopping centers that have more blank spaces than tenants. Players such as Sprouts and Lucky’s look for locations that already are shopping hubs.

Venice will need something with the feel and the density of Lakewood Ranch or even similar to Cocoplum Village Shops in North Port, Rutstein said, for it to attract these new organic grocery chains.

Right now, Venice is seeing droves of new subdivisions but still lacks the right retail space to match that growth.

But that doesn’t mean these stores aren’t coming to South County, said Barry Seidel, president of American Property Group of Sarasota Inc., Sarasota is slowly invading the Nokomis, Osprey and even the Venice area. It won’t be long until those towns are just thought of as part of the larger northern community. The Sarasota Sprouts technically falls in Vamo’s borders, but that’s not how Southwest Florida really thinks of that spot. Neither does Sprouts. Every announcement we’ve seen from the company has said the grocer is coming to South Sarasota.

Five years ago, Sprouts wouldn’t have even considered a move to Pelican Plaza, Seidel said. But Manatee County-based Benderson Development Co. bought the defunct shopping center in 2012 and slowly turned a retail graveyard into an attraction.

With the housing boom in Venice, we’re bound to see something similar happen there, too, but it will take time. Rutstein said he expects the community will need another three or five years of growth.

Our little corner of Southwest Florida is accustomed to waiting.

Organic grocers such as Lucky’s and Earth Fare have been planting “Coming Soon” signs throughout the Sunshine State for the past few years. Our market is rarely a place for firsts. Typically, retailers wait to set up shop here until they’ve moved into the Tampa or Orlando areas. Sarasota is a good spot for fifths and sixths. Venice isn’t even on the list yet. Retailers are aware of Venice but it’s just not the attraction Sarasota is.

There are exceptions to this, though. We’ve already seen it with Sprouts. That Pelican Plaza store will be the second in the state, and it’s slated to open just two months after the first one launches in Hillsborough County.

We’re inching our way up the priority list. Retailers are excited about Southwest Florida – so much so that they’re saturating our market. Lucky’s, Sprouts, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Fresh Market already have plans or roots here. Another boutique-style grocer is expected to move into the Siesta Promenade development at U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road. Earth Fare is eyeing a spot in Lakewood Ranch.

No wonder Vamo, just south of all that competition, looked attractive.

It’s only a matter of time before Venice does, too.

— Maggie Menderski, the Herald-Tribune’s retail and tourism reporter, can be reached at 941-361-4951 or at maggie.menderski@heraldtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaggieMenderski, Instagram @MaggieMenderski and on Facebook. Read What’s In Store in print on Tuesdays. 

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Sprouts Farmers Market to open in April

The Sarasota Sprouts Farmers Market will open at Pelican Plaza in April. Maggie Menderski/Herald-Tribune

The date is set: Sarasota’s first Sprouts Farmers Market is slated to open at 7 a.m. April 12.

The 26,000-square-foot store will be the affordable, organic grocer’s second to open in Florida.

It’s been about nine months since I first spotted the Sprout’s “Coming Soon” tag on Manatee County-based Benderson Development Co.’s website. The Phoenix-based chain’s move to Pelican Plaza near the intersection of U.S. 41 and Beneva Road has been one of the most talked about retail openings planned for this year.

A quick search through my inbox shows the market’s name appears in more than 50 different emails to me.

That doesn’t count the number of calls I’ve taken or questions I’ve heard while I’m out in the community. Sarasota is excited about Sprouts.

I watched that blank wall between Total Wine & More and Petco at Pelican Plaza for months waiting for any sort of activity.

Nine months later, we have more than a sprout. We’ve got a whole storefront and a solid opening date.

Permits filed with Sarasota County in the middle of December indicate we can expect to see the “Sprouts Farmers Market” sign along with “Natural Foods” and “Farm Fresh Produce” signage arrive on the building soon. The inside of the building, as far as I can tell, is still pretty bare. Construction crews were working on Wednesday with the door just slightly ajar, and I caught a glimpse of the interior. We don’t have produce racks or grocery aisles yet, but I imagine with the opening just three months away, they can’t be far behind.

Sprouts already is starting to source one of the most important parts of its interior — its employees.

The company seemingly takes as much pride in its workers as it does in the products it sells. The grocery chain announced on Wednesday that it is starting the hiring process for roughly 100 employees. It is looking to fill a variety of positions, including department managers, assistant department managers, cashiers and courtesy clerks as well as clerks for produce, meat and seafood, vitamin and body care, grocery, deli, and bakery. Anyone interested can go to sprouts.com/careers or call 1-866-925-2396.

But even if you’re not interested in a job, there’s still plenty to look forward to while we wait for the doors to open.

Sprouts will open its first Florida location in the north Tampa Carrollwood area on Feb. 22. I’ve already got plans to take a trip to Hillsborough County so I can tour the store. Then I should be able to give you a better idea about why this grocer has the retail world talking and how it will stack up against a couple of other organic-focused, boutique grocers making moves in our market.

Lucky’s Market has plans to open in the empty Dillard’s box at Westfield Southgate by the end of the year. Earth Fare hasn’t made a formal announcement yet, but commercial building permits filed with Manatee County indicate the grocer is considering a site at new retail shopping center to the northeast of State Road 70 and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard.

Sprouts, certainly, isn’t the only grocer popping up in our market, but I’m confident it’s the most anticipated.

Those emails and the general buzz I mentioned earlier clearly attest to it.

I imagine the line we will see outside the store on early April 12 will, too.

— Maggie Menderski, the Herald-Tribune’s retail and tourism reporter, can be reached at 941-361-4951 or at maggie.menderski@heraldtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaggieMenderski, Instagram @MaggieMenderski and on Facebook. Read What’s In Store in print on Tuesdays. 

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COLUMN: CPK prepares for opening

Courtesy photo: California Pizza Kitchen

California Pizza Kitchen will open its first Sarasota store at the end of the month.

The pizza chain plans to host its grand opening on Jan. 23. The new restaurant, just east of North Cattlemen Road near the Mall at University Town Center, will be the chain’s 16th in Florida. The Playa Vista, California-based company operates nearly 300 restaurants in 16 countries and is best known for its hearth-baked artisan pizzas. Its menu also features a variety of salads, pastas, soups, sandwiches, appetizers and desserts.

That area has become a restaurant hub in the past two years or so. Seasons 52, Brio Tuscan Grille and The Cheesecake Factory opened with the mall in October 2014. The Rusty Bucket, BurgerFi and Jpan Sushi and Grill have all opened across the street on the west side of North Cattlemen Road within the past year. Acropolis Greek Taverna is expected to open there this spring.

Men’s Wearhouse leaves Sarasota Square

University Town Center also welcomed a new Men’s Wearhouse in mid-2016, which seems to have caused a shakeup on the south end of town. The Westfield Sarasota Square store has closed its doors. The suit-and-tuxedo company still operates one other store on South Tamiami Trail near Sarasota Memorial Hospital. The Texas-based chain purchased business rival Jos. A. Bank in late 2015. That retailer also operates a store in the University Town Center area and still has a location at Sarasota Square.

Vince Camuto closes at the Mall at University Town Center

Meanwhile, the Mall at University Town Center also has lost retailer. Vince Camuto, the designer behind Nine West, closed its boutique on the second floor of the mall near Hugo Boss and Lucky Brand Jeans. The store was the second of Camuto’s boutiques to open in Florida. The chain still operates stores in Disney Springs and at Palm Beach Outlets, according to the retailer’s website. At least seven other stores have shuttered at the shopping center since it opened two years ago.

— Maggie Menderski, the Herald-Tribune’s retail and tourism reporter, can be reached at 941-361-4951 or at maggie.menderski@heraldtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaggieMenderski, Instagram @MaggieMenderski and on Facebook. Read What’s In Store in print on Tuesdays. 

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