LAKEWOOD RANCH -- What started out as a small novelty business smoking pork in the backyard for a few clients, family and friends, has now become a fast-growing restaurant and catering business in downtown Sarasota with plans to expand east to Manatee County.
Nancy Krohngold is bringing her Carolina-inspired barbecue pulled pork restaurant and catering company to a second location near the new Mall at University Town Center.
Krohngold, a long-time Sarasota resident, says she reached critical mass last summer in terms of demand for her corporate catering in and around Lakewood Ranch. That was a sign, she said, is was time to branch out.
"We were hitting our limit with how much food we could prepare since we only have one huge smoker in our downtown Sarasota location," Krohngold said.
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Krohngold searched for a space that could accommodate three smokers closer to Lakewood Ranch but nothing seemed to fit the bill.
The Square at University Town Center, owned by Benderson Development, had a space that could entice shoppers from the new mall.
The Herald reported last week Benderson Development is seeking permission from Manatee County to build another 25,000 square feet of retail space onto two of its existing shopping centers on University Parkway, which is where the restaurant wants to locate. The space would be added on both sides of Honore Avenue in the University Park Center adjacent to The Fresh Market and near Home Depot. A 6,380-square-foot space would be added onto the existing Eyeglass Works for another retail space scheduled to open soon.
The plans are going through the administrative approval process, which is expected to be completed by July 16, the Herald reported. Calls to Benderson Development were not returned.
Krohngold says Benderson has offered her a lease but she hasn't signed it yet.
"If we're going to do it, let's do it right. We have a good feel for how much space we'll need to move the catering out of our Sarasota location. We will staff the second store with 20 people or so, and our current staff will help train them. We'll also be open seven days a week," said Krohngold, who officially opened her Sarasota restaurant in 2011 but has been catering since 2004. "The nice thing is, we already have a catering presence in Lakewood Ranch."
The University Park restaurant is set to have the same folksy, country-style look and feel as the Sarasota location, as well as the same menu selections, including smoked chicken, ribs, salmon and salads.
"If all goes well, we'll certainly add a third store. Maybe across the bay into Pinellas County and St. Petersburg or closer to home in West Bradenton. I just never want to count my chickens before they hatch."
Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch Reporter can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.