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Hungry entrepreneurs sign up for new entrees

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  • | 10:14 p.m. January 2, 2012
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A local restaurant chain continues to find ways to grow, despite the recession that could have squashed it.

So much so that the co-owners of Gecko's Grill & Pubs, Mike Quillen and Mike Gowan, have turned nearly squashed into just plain squash. They've turned it into locally grown onions, tomatoes and broccoli, too, through a partnership with Sarasota-based Honeyside Farms.

“We don't want to maintain,” says Quillen. “We want to go forward. It was a big challenge to not cave in.”

Honeyside has supplied the five Gecko's locations in Sarasota and Manatee counties with a variety of produce, from cucumbers to zucchini. The cost is a little more in the short term, the restaurateurs concede. But Quillen and Gowan hope the long-term benefits of fresher and better ingredients that aren't shipped hundreds of miles in trucks will soon pay off.

“It isn't inexpensive,” Quillen tells Coffee Talk. “But it's our commitment to put something better on our plates for our guests.”

Quillen and Gowan also recently launched a meeting and banquet business, another project designed to offer something better, and different. It's called the Signature Room at Gecko's, and it's in a former Vino 100 wine location on Clark Road in Sarasota, next to a Gecko's.

Gowan says the Signature Room is a way to create a new entity that's set apart from Gecko's. The room can hold about 60 people, and can be used for everything from wedding rehearsal dinners to board meetings. It cost less than $100,000 to renovate the space, and events for early 2012 have already been booked. The restaurant hired a catering manager to book and host events.

“It's a way of growing sales from within,” says Quillen, “without opening new locations.”


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