Sonic Drive-in competitor Sax coming to Bradenton

cschelle@bradenton.comNovember 27, 2013 

BAYSHORE GARDENS -- A Tennessee-based burger and shake joint will take over the former Sonic Drive-In space at Bayshore Gardens Shopping Center allowing diners to order and dine from their car.

Sax, a restaurant from the Nashville suburb of Hendersonville, will open a new Bradenton location with a tweaked concept sometime between Dec. 15-27, said co-owners Shawn Massey and Kyle Berry.

"Everything will be just like Sonic," Massey said. "You're going to pull in, hit the button, talk to us inside."

Hiring at Sax, 6008 14th St. W, could begin as soon as next week, said Massey, who is looking to bring 35 to 40 people on board. Don't worry -- no rollerskating orders, he said.

At one time the space was a Sonic Drive-In, but it closed in 2010 with about a dozen other Tampa Bay locations when Mississippi-based franchisee Boyz-N-Burgers LLC defaulted on $37 million in loans.

The type of food, service and appearance will be similar to Sonic, but what sets Sax apart is having fresh, made-from-scratch food, the co-owners said.

The menu features hand-pattied burgers, hand-cut seasoned fries, ruebens, and a specialty bun made from a Tennessee baker.

"We also have a big variety of desserts as well -- shakes, slushies," Berry said.

Massey and Berry knew that the property was pre-wired for menus at each parking stall, and will bring that feature to this Sax, but they didn't intend on doing a drive-in when searching for properties.

"We're going to change the concept just slightly because of the Sonic," Massey said. "We were really looking for more of a Perkins-type building to rent, then we stumbled on this. We sell the heck out of burgers and fries there, so we're moving more toward the burgers, fries and shakes."

Not everybody has to eat in their car, so in addition to the drive-in and drive-thru service, 10 tables will be available under the canopy, Massey said.

Berry and Massey are hoping their hunch and research pays off because the two came here on a whim with their families. First, Berry moved with his family then a couple weeks later Massey moved down. He was familiar with the area from living in Clearwater when he was younger. Of course, it wasn't a hard sell to tell the family you're moving to the beach, not too far from Disney.

"It wasn't too hard. The women were ready to come -- everyone was happy, nobody was complaining," Massey said.

The co-owners worked together at steakhouses in Tennessee and at Rafferty's Restaurant and Bar, and wanted to find a new casual dining concept of their own. After opening Sax in 2010, the duo decided to sell the Sax Deli and Grill in Tennessee and use the profits to take the name and concept to Florida.

"We opened about three years ago and realized we had a possibility of a chain of restaurants, so we started looking at demographics in Southeast and saw the Tampa Bay, Clearwater, Sarasota, Bradenton area with so many people and the demographics, we decided to pack up our families and move down here," said Massey, as he was speckled with paint Tuesday as he worked on renovations for the restaurant.

Sax is leasing the space from Benderson Development for five years, according to a lease filed with the Manatee County Clerk. Benderson acquired the pad site from Boyz-N-Burgers for $350,000 in 2012, according to the Manatee County property appraiser.

For more information, contact Sax at 941-758-4900 or visit facebook.com/xceptionalsax.

Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.

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