LAS VEGAS -- Rita's Water Ice, known for its flavored ice mixed with fresh fruit and custard, could be making a comeback in the Sarasota-Bradenton area.
The chain once had locations at 8382 Market St., Lakewood Ranch and 4420 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, where the faded sign can still be seen behind a chain link fence in an unfinished strip mall.
A real estate representative for the company told the Herald that Rita's is actively exploring the Sarasota area and is in the midst of a deal there. No location has been selected. The closest Rita's to Bradenton are in Clearwater.
The Trevose, Pa.-based Rita's has 21 locations in Florida with one coming soon in Vero Beach. The chain is open seasonally in most locations from at least the first day of spring and stays open until the third Sunday in September or later. Florida is an exception as most of the locations are open year-round.
Rita's seeks locations that have 35,000 people or more in a trade area with 20,000-plus cars passing by the site each day. Typical Rita's are 1,000 to 1,500 square feet in size.
Custard competition is stronger since Rita's departed. In addition to the local SweetBerries, Freddy's Frozen Custard from Kansas has opened in East Manatee with another coming soon in University Park and Culver's will open this year near Tuttle Avenue on University Parkway plus the owners of Gecko's serve custard at S'macks at Bee Ridge Road and Shade Avenue.