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Gulf Coast to see more Geckos

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  • | 8:56 p.m. April 1, 2010
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The recession has delivered an unforeseen boost to Mike Gowan and Mike Quillen, founders of the popular Gecko's Grill & Pubs in Sarasota and Manatee counties: They get approached almost daily about potential business opportunities.

Not surprisingly, given the sad state of the Gulf Coast commercial real estate market, many of those opportunities stem from landlords who seek to rent empty space. Gowan and Quillen have turned away most deals due to a combination of timing, location and cost issues.

But when the landlord of a property across the street from Sarasota Memorial Hospital came calling recently, Gowan's interest piqued. The spot at 1900 Hillview St., in what was a restaurant called Big Sugar, hit the market in January. Gowan and Quillen had a lease in place by the end of February.

“We really love this location,” Gowan tells Coffee Talk. “It is just a unique situation.”

Also somewhat unique: Gecko's continues to grow its presence in the region, despite the recession. The former Big Sugar location will become the fifth Gecko's, to go with two in Manatee County and two in Sarasota County. Gowan and Quillen also own a few bars in Sarasota that aren't under the Gecko's name.

The business partners spent about $700,000 to renovate two Gecko's locations in 2008. Then, late last year, with some other partners, they bought the Clubhouse Tavern in Sarasota that has been renamed the Rusty Hook Tavern.


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