Decades later, restaurateur Richard Gonzmart fulfills his father's dying wish.
The Columbia Restaurant Group’s fourth-generation caretaker, Richard Gonzmart, recently crossed off one of the biggest item’s on his career to-do list: buying the building that houses the Tampa-based company’s Sarasota Columbia Restaurant.
On St. Armands Circle, the 30,000-square-foot space has long been the home of both the Columbia and Cha Cha Coconuts, a bar and grill concept also owned by Columbia Restaurant Group. The company owns and operates a dozen restaurants in Florida, including the under-construction Buccaneer on nearby Longboat Key.
Gonzmart says adding the location to the company’s holdings was a dying wish of his father and mentor, Cesar Gonzmart. He died in 1992.
“I am just grateful that I’m able to fulfill this last wish of my father,” Gonzmart states in a press release about the purchase. “Before he died, he set out a series of goals and dreams he wanted me to accomplish for the company. I never thought I’d be able to get this one done. And now we have.”
The sale price of the property — which also includes second-floor space leased by other businesses — was not disclosed by the privately held Columbia Restaurant Group and wasn't yet listed in county property records.
Gonzmart says the company had wanted to acquire the building for decades. Cesar Gonzmart had the opportunity to do that in 1960, a year after expanding to Sarasota, but couldn’t afford the $240,000 asking price. He settled for a 50-year lease, which was subsequently extended and would have expired in 2035.
“Now we control our own destiny,” Gonzmart states in the release. “We can further improve the kitchen and other areas of the restaurant — including the rear of the building, which we want to be as welcoming as the front.”