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Business partners take over Peach's Restaurants

BRADENTON

Alison Thomas does everything with a smile -- busing tables, wiping counter tops and rolling up utensils in napkins.

Her business partner Mary Beth Hansen is the same way, even when realizing that attempting to cook bananas and chocolate chips in a waffle iron will create quite a mess.

“We feel very fortunate for this opportunity,” says Hansen, who along with Thomas purchased all 10 Peach’s Restaurants and its catering business in December.

The longtime friends say they’ve embarked on their greatest business venture yet: owning and operating one of Manatee County’s most popular breakfast and lunch diners. The two purchased Peach’s Restaurants and Catering Co. out of receivership Dec. 7.

A foreclosure suit was filed against the restaurant chain and catering division Jan. 15, 2010, claiming then owner Michael Luciano owed more than $1 million on a $1.3 million loan. Total assets of Peach’s Management Inc. as of Dec. 20 were $5.5 million, according to court records.

“Yes, we are very fortunate this has worked out for us,” said Thomas, who wouldn’t disclose their purchase price. “It was a good deal.”

Sarasota attorney Morgan Bentley, who represented Peach’s in the foreclosure suit, said receiver Joe Hembree was instrumental in putting the business in good standing for its new owners.

“The receiver came in and it was textbook,” Bentley said. “He started making some money for the business, streamlining some things and the restaurant was able to get back on its feet and, hopefully, last years to come. Everyone loves Peach’s, including me.”

And Thomas and Hansen.

The two love the food -- most particularly the Blackstone Benedict (poached eggs with grilled tomato slices served on an English muffin with hollandaise and bacon) and the customer loyalty and its character. They also value their 175 employees.

“Peach’s is about good food and good customer service,” Hansen, 50, said. “We intend to keep it that way. We’re very dedicated to this.”

And experienced.

Over the past five years, Thomas, 50, worked as a server at Peach’s in Ellenton.

On the side, she operated and managed a catering company, The Perfect Party, that Thomas and Hansen started years ago when the two worked as servers at the Longboat Key Club.

Thomas started working at the Longboat Key Club in 2000, and Hansen joined in 2002.

“We were servers in the banquet department, and our friendship merged into a partnership with the catering business,” Thomas said.

They dissolved their catering company into Peach’s Catering Co.

The two have been in control of Peach’s for just a month, but already have big plans in store for the restaurants.

They estimate their first big investment will be about $250,000.

With that, Thomas and Hansen are looking to expand the kitchen at the Peach’s at 3201 Manatee Ave. W., which opened in 1990 and was the first Peach’s in Manatee.

Other plans include replacing equipment, floor tile and carpets and painting various Peach’s locations.

The two also will consider adding new menu choices, printing new menus and starting a website, which may eventually allow customers to place food orders.

“Our plan is to make sure this is a prosperous business,” Hansen said.

What their plans don’t include is a major overhaul or remodeling of the restaurants that have been in operation for nearly 22 years.

“It’s worked so well,” Thomas said. “Why mess with a good thing?”

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