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Sarasota-Manatee
Business Observer Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013 7 years ago

Gecko's cooks up new concept

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Prominent chain will open a quick-casual burger restaurant this spring.

SARASOTA — The local firm behind Gecko's Grill & Pubs is launching a new restaurant concept — with a hint of old Sarasota in the mix.

The new restaurant is S'macks Burgers & Shakes, a quick-casual eatery. Executives with Gecko's Hospitality Group, the owners, say S'macks will incorporate two restaurant industry trends: The use of locally grown products and produce, and a higher-end version of fast casual food. The restaurant will provide counter service.

“The Gecko's are doing extremely well,” Gecko's Hospitality Group co-owner Mike Quillen tells the Business Observer in an interview today. “But we wanted to diversify and do something different and fun.”

They also wanted to do something historical. The name is a play on Smacks, which was a burger joint on Main Street in downtown Sarasota from 1930 to 1958. That place, Quillen and his business partners discovered, was the heartbeat of the Sarasota social scene. Says Quillen: “We are reviving a little bit of the history.”

S'macks, scheduled to open by the middle of the spring if permitting goes smoothly, is at the corner of Bee Ridge Road and Shade Avenue. It's a former brownfield site with a long-vacant gas station. Gecko's Hospitality Group paid $500,000 for the site late in 2012.

The company's renovation of the property will include new landscaping, a patio and energy-efficient kitchen equipment and lighting. The menu will include old-fashioned frozen custard shakes, burgers, fries and hot dogs. A manager with the Gecko's in the Landings in Sarasota, Alex Floethe, was named a managing partner of the new venture.

Gecko's Hospitality Group owns five Gecko's locations spread through Manatee and Sarasota counties. The chain employs more than 300 people. Quillen expects to hire 20-30 people for S'macks.

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