BRADENTON -- Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches will open in downtown Bradenton's SunTrust Center by the end of this year, making it downtown's first chain restaurant.
Owner Tom Venema, a Palmetto High School graduate, announced the location Wednesday afternoon along with the building's management and owners 3rd Avenue Associates LLLP and Riverside Real Estate and Management Co.
The restaurant will replace the former Retro City Cafe, which closed last year at 1001 Third Ave. W.
"With all of the new developments in the past couple of years in the downtown Bradenton area and the Riverwalk, I couldn't see a better place to open Jimmy John's third location," Venema said. "I feel by bringing a national chain to the downtown Bradenton district that it is only a sign of things to come and the great economic development that is on its way to this area."
Venema also operates Jimmy John's Cortez Road and Manatee Avenue locations with business partner Dr. James Briles.
Another Jimmy John's is planned for the former Hungry Howie's Pizza site, 6923 State Road 70, but it will be owned and operated by Mark Mitchell. That location, which had been expected to open at the end of this month, is facing delays.
The chain started as a single shop in Charleston, Ill., in 1983 and now has more than 1,600 restaurants, known for making "freaky fast" sub sandwiches in a couple minutes and delivering them speedily.
Having a business like Jimmy John's helps downtown be viewed differently, said David Gustafson, executive director of the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority.
"The other chains in the world will start looking at us in a different scenario," Gustafson said. "Now the bigger developers, the bigger chains will start saying, 'Whoa, Bradenton is rising.' We're being looked at in a completely different light."
The addition will help give a good mix of local and national businesses, but even the Jimmy John's feels local, he said, because Venema is a lifelong Manatee resident.
Rachael Stanton, barista at The B'Towne Coffee Co., said Wednesday she likes Jimmy John's because, "it's really good," but didn't sound too happy about a chain moving in. She also doesn't feel another Jimmy John's location is necessary.
"There's one on Manatee Avenue and one in Cortez," she said, adding if this one brings in more business, more chain businesses may come to the area.
"The downtown area should be more about local businesses than chain restaurants," she said.
Thomas Stynes, who co-owns McCabe's Irish Pub and Market on Main Street on Old Main Street, expressed enthusiasm.
"We welcome any new business downtown," he said. "It's good for the area. It's good for downtown."
Further down Old Main Street at Fav's Italian Cucina, 419 12th St. W., co-owner Michael Favasuli said the new Jimmy John's will likely keep diners downtown.
"It's just another option," he said, adding the franchise has a good reputation. "It'll bring more people downtown."
Amaris Castillo, Herald Law Enforcement/Island Reporter, contributed to this report.
Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.