EAST MANATEE -- East Manatee residents will soon be able to get a taste of Jersey.
Jersey Mike's Subs, the New Jersey-based restaurant franchise known for its fresh-made submarine sandwiches, plans to open a new location next to Walmart in the River Club Plaza at State Road 70 East and Interstate 75.
The franchise will be run by Patrick S. George and his partner and father, Patrick J. George. The two opened a Jersey Mike's in the Center Point Commons shopping center on 14th Street West in Bradenton in 2011. There are additional Jersey Mike's franchises with different owners at 8220 Tourist Center Drive, off University Parkway in Manatee, and at 3820 S. Tuttle Ave. in Sarasota.
The younger George, who lives in East Manatee, said he had been hoping to bring a Jersey Mike's to the area for the past few years.
"It's growing," George said. "The demographics are outstanding."
The new Jersey Mike's will be next door to the recently opened Popi's Place on the Ranch restaurant. George said he was hoping to secure the permitting for indoor construction this week and to have his restaurant open by the end of April.
The company, which started in Point Pleasant, N.J., as Mike's Subs, began franchising in 1987 and has about 730 locations nationwide, including 140 that opened in 2013.
Jersey Mike's is in the midst of a rapid expansion and hopes to open more than 200 locations this year, said company spokeswoman Kyle Potvin.
"There's a lot of grassroots support," Potvin said.
George, who grew up in the Philadelphia area, said he understands the attraction to Jersey Mike's food.
"Being from the Northeast, we grew up with fresh baked bread everyday," George said. "We slice everything right in front of the customer. It's not prepackaged from a warehouse. The meat for our Philly cheesesteaks comes from Philly, the bread comes from New Jersey. You're getting as close to authentic as you can from the Northeast."
Popular sandwiches on the menu include the "Original Italian," the "Super Sub" (provolone, ham, prosciuittini and cappicola) and "Jersey Shore's Favorite" (provolone, ham and cappicola).
All cold subs are available the "Mike's Way," with onions, lettuce, tomatoes, oil and vinegar and spices. The restaurant also serves hot subs and wraps.
The company is also active in giving back, holding a "Month of Giving" fundraising campaign each March for local charities. One-hundred percent of sales on March 26 at George's Bradenton franchise will go toward the Manatee County Y.
The Jersey Mike's franchise was an obvious choice as a River Club Plaza tenant, said officials with developer Casto.
"They're just a really solid operation and offer a good product," said John Hutchens, asset manager for the project. "We have a lot of Jersey Mike's in our portfolio. They've always performed."
When Jersey Mike's moves in, the existing outparcels at River Club Plaza will be 100 percent occupied, Hutchens said.
The shopping center includes the recently opened Wasabi Japanese Steakhouse, Menchie's frozen yogurt, AIO Cellular, Amscot, Holistic for Pets, GNC, Mattress One, Hair Cuttery, Cutting Loose, Leslie's Swimming Pool Supplies and Deluxe Nail Spa.
Texas Roadhouse, Hungry Howie's Pizza and Tire Choice also have their own buildings in the plaza. A freestanding car wash will be built within the next six months to a year, and Casto is still looking for a tenant for a final, yet-to-be-built building to complete the project, Hutchens said.
Jason Bartolone, East Manatee Editor, can be reached at 941-745-7011. Follow him on Twitter @JasonBartolone.