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$3 million food, drink and entertainment concept a hit in Naples

Two decades of "successes, failures, bumps, bruises" guides entrepreneurs' strategy with multi-venue food and beverage venture.

The venue was several years in the making before parts of it opened last year.
The venue was several years in the making before parts of it opened last year.
Photo by Stefania Pifferi
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As president of JCS Realty Group, Christopher Shucart understands the commercial real estate market in Naples. So he could see the potential of an empty parking lot and driveway in the city’s burgeoning Design District.

Inspired by his travels to places like the Florida Keys, he envisioned a place where patrons could enjoy great food and drinks, live music and a fun outdoor atmosphere. After more than three years of planning and development — plus an investment of some $3 million — his multi-venue concept came to life over the past year and is already making a mark on the area. 

First to open in August was District, a stylish craft cocktail lounge and restaurant. Guests enter under an awning of pink bougainvillea into the moodily elegant space with dark walls and velvety peacock-hued seating. The lounge also holds a surprise in the back, where a secret door leads to a clubby 1920s-style speakeasy dubbed Staff Only.

The Kitchen & Mini Bar debuted in December, an alfresco spot with a spacious outdoor bar, umbrella-topped picnic tables set up on artificial turf, and an appealing menu of food and beverages. The vibe here is decidedly laid-back and tropical, which is a distinct contrast to the final venue to open, The Alley. The narrow, indoor space for late-night food and drinks first welcomed patrons this past January, boasting a gritty, New York City vibe with graffiti-strewn brick walls, faux fire escapes, and a pay phone that plays a recording of Andrew Dice Clay.

Marty Kenney, Christopher Lee and Christopher Shucart have high expectations for the multi-venue food and beverage concept.
Photo by Stefania Pifferi

Shucart partnered with entrepreneurs Marty Kenney and Christopher Lee on the venture. The three collaborated on everything from the design concepts for each space to the food and drink menus. They bring food, beverage, and hospitality experience to go along with Shucart’s real estate, development, and construction know-how. “We all bring something so unique to the table,” says Shucart, 45.

“When the three of us get aligned on the concept, we’ve got a very similar mindset,” he adds. “So when we’re all three in alignment, you can see what the vision is. When our visions align, something special happens.”

Lee spearheaded the staffing side of things and assembled a dedicated group of employees. “We have an amazing team,” says Shucart. “They believe in the vision, and they believe in what we’re trying to do here. … One of my expressions is: Business is a team sport. You can’t do it on your own, and we’ve got a great team.”

That’s important, because he sees customer service as the driver of the venues’ success. “We’re going to make mistakes; we’re not going to be perfect,” he says. “But if we treat every customer like they’re special, and which they are, we’ll be able to succeed at it.”

They’ve been using tools online like Instagram and Facebook to drive interest in the new spots. Highly Instagram-able restrooms and design elements like a mint-green, faux-shark-topped VW bus also help when it comes to customer-driven word of mouth.

“We talk to everybody,” says Shucart. “We try to meet every customer and grow [the business] as organically as we can.”

A focus on sustainability also adds another layer of appeal for patrons. The Kitchen & Mini Bar, for example, uses pressed plates made from fallen tree branches, pressed agave utensils and fully compostable coffee cups and includes features like a purified chilled water station created in partnership with Captains for Clean Water. “People like that — they gravitate toward people being conscious of sustainability,” says Shucart.

The venue offers multiple options for customers.
Photo by Stefania Pifferi

Now that all four venues are open, the partners plan to concentrate on living up to their vision. The continued growth of the Naples Design District should work in their favor, like the new Gulfshore Playhouse site taking shape nearby.

“We really just want to make it successful,” says Shucart. “It deserves the attention and to not rush off and do another project. … We’ve opened four restaurants in a year; I’d say that’s enough for now. We’re digesting. What do they say? You can digest an elephant, it just takes a bite at a time. We’re in the digesting the elephant moment right now.

“We jokingly say, ‘Oh yeah, there’s maybe something down the road,’” he continues. “But we know we’ve got a tiger by the tail.”

And Shucart understands firsthand that a venture like this takes hard work and effort. “Literally, this is the culmination of 20 years of successes, failures, bumps, bruises,” he says. “It really is. It’s a culmination of 20 years of experience. I wouldn't have been able to do it 20 years ago.”



Beth Luberecki

Nokomis-based freelance writer Beth Luberecki, a Business Observer contributor, writes about business, travel and lifestyle topics for a variety of Florida and national publications. Her work has appeared in publications and on websites including Washington Post’s Express, USA Today, Florida Trend, and Learn more about her at

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