Mall at University Town Center to be among first Rise Pies pizza locations

Ohio company also bringing an Auntie Anne's location to the mall

cschelle@bradenton.comJune 24, 2014 Updated 10 hours ago

UNIVERSITY PARK -- The largest franchisee of Auntie Anne's Soft Pretzels will launch a new pizza concept called Rise Pies Handcrafted Pizza inside the new Mall at University Town Center.

Rise Pies, based in Youngstown, Ohio, filed a building application with Sarasota County on Monday to be one of the chain's first locations.

"It's the whole assembly line concept where you build your own pizza, pick your toppings and it cooks in a high-quality oven you'd see in a sit-down restaurant," Rise Pies President Eddie Muransky said. "It cooks in two-and-a-half to three minutes."

Rise Pies is part of the Chestnut Land Co. and Muransky Cos., owned by Eddie Muransky's father Edward W. Muransky. The company oversees most of the Auntie Anne's Soft Pretzel franchises plus an acute care hospital and a country club in Youngstown.

Auntie Anne's is also coming to the Mall at UTC, the younger Muransky said, and the pizza concept developed because he wanted to offer a pizza concept to pair with Auntie Anne's when they talked with malls for new locations. The company could help fill a pizza void for the 155 mall locations shuttered by Italian chain Sbarro this year.

The Muransky Cos. is teaming up with a Youngstown area chef, Vernon Cesta, to launch the company. Cesta and Muransky will open the first Rise Pies in Youngstown in August before opening the Sarasota County location in October.

"If you're not familiar with northeast Ohio, this is an old Italian immigrant community," Muransky said. "We have some of the best pizza around."

Cesta's recipes will replicated flatbread-style pizzas, he said. The pizza joint will offer more than 20 toppings, three crusts (including gluten free), six different sauces and seven different cheeses, Muransky said. There also will be about seven pre-set pizzas, like the Grandma with Romano cheese, basil, plum tomato sauce, hot, red and sweet peppers. The restaurant also will offer meatballs and salads and have seating inside.

"People want to have that great atmosphere, but in the comfortable $10 check setting," he said.

Muransky's name may be familiar to football fans. Muransky's father is a retired offensive tackle of the Super Bowl XVII champions Oakland Raiders, and also spent time playing for the defunct United States Football League's Orlando Renegades.

His Florida connections remained strong when he helped franchise Auntie Anne's, which was started at a farmers market stand in Downingtown, Pa. Auntie Anne's first retail location was in the Florida Mall in Orlando and then expanded to the Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg.

The younger Muransky, who serves as the company's general counsel and vice president, attended Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa.

Muransky said he has a great working relationship with Taubman Centers, which is leasing the Mall at UTC, complimenting the Michigan company's upscale centers and wanted to be part of the new Mall at UTC.

After launching the two Rise Pies this year, the company will reevaluate in about six months to determine its next step for growth. They could either franchise, or work to run 20 to 30 corporate-owned stores, he said.

"We're prepared for all possibilities," he said.

The University Park restaurant will be about 2,500 square feet on the first level near Macy's and beside a planned Mandarin Express restaurant.

The 880,000-square-foot Mall at UTC will feature more than 100 stores and restaurants, including anchors Apple, Crate & Barrel, H&M, Dillard's, Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue.

In addition to sit-down restaurants, the mall is adding a roster of fast-food joints including ColdStone Creamery, Mandarin Express, Starbucks, Teavana, Yo! Sushi and Smoothie King.

Bebe coming to Mall at UTC

Women's fashion store Bebe also filed a building permit for the Mall at University Town Center on Monday.

Bebe will look to have a 3,500-square-foot store on the first level beside Victoria's Secret.

Bebe was founded by Manny Mashouf in 1976 in San Francisco, offering contemporary fashion for women.

This would be the first Bebe in the Manatee-Sarasota area. The company has two Tampa locations in addition to a store inside the Westfield mall in Brandon.

The Mall at UTC is expected to open Oct. 16 at University Parkway and Cattlemen Road.

For the complete story online, go to bradenton.com.

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

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