MANATEE -- After more than four years, and two different restaurants, Sonic Drive-In will be back in Bradenton come January.
Mississippi-based company McClain, Vaughn and Partners Sonic Group has leased the former Bayshore Gardens location at 6008 14th St. W., and is expected to open Jan 13, said Mary Fox, administrative assistant for MVP. The opening will come after management assess esconstruction next week.
"It has always been a good location for us," Fox said.
MVP, through its company SDI of Bradenton, signed a 10-year lease with two five-year renewal options for the 1,600-square-foot restaurant on a pad site owned by Benderson Development Co.
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Sonic, which started in Oklahoma City, is known for its car hop service where diners can feel like it's the 1950s pulling up to a menu board and parking their car to order a burger, hot dog, shake and tater tots.
Sonic closed in November 2010 when the same franchisee, with its Boyz N Burgers LLC, shuttered 11 Tampa Bay locations, including one in Ellenton, according to Herald archives. The company defaulted on $37 million worth of loans from Bank of America at the time.
The time is right for MVP to come back because Sonic is growing and Florida is recovering from the recession, said Jason McNeill, regional vice president of operations for MVP.
"What makes it appealing to us today is because Sonic in general is having a really good year," McNeill said. The franchise company is looking to re-establish itself in areas that it left during the recession. Its Ellenton location has since been torn down to make way for a new Taco Bell, which McNeill said was another excellent location for the company.
"We're looking at anywhere that makes sense for us," he said. "We're open to grow down here."
The Bayshore Gardens space sat vacant until two Tennessee men opened a Sax Burgers & Sandwiches that shuttered after five months. A manager from Sax reopened it in June as Sara Soda Drive-In with nearly the same menu and closed in August after less than three months
the same menu and closed in August after less than three months in business.
MVP is updating the building with all the latest Sonic equipment and graphics, McNeill said.
MVP now owns 59 Sonics in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Its other Florida locations are in Auburndale, Boynton Beach, Greenacres, Kenneth City and Pinellas Park. All of the restaurants in Florida have roller-skating car hops, which the franchise group prefers. "That's the ones that make the most money in those scenarios," he said.
The Bradenton location is hiring 80 to 100 people and those interested can apply at mcclainsonics.com.