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Popi’s VI gets ready for its opening

BRADENTON -- Manny Ameres was busy and somebody stuck their head in the door.

“When you open?” they said.

“Next Wednesday,” Ameres told them.

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Then the 64-year-old restaurateur went back to trying to get Popi’s VI ready for business.

Huddling with the Coke delivery guy. The electrician. A waitressing job applicant.

Another person stuck their head in the door.

“When you open?”

“Next Wednesday,” Ameres said.

Bothered by the interruptions? Not at all.

It was a good sign for his family’s new restaurant at 6409 Manatee Ave. W. in the Fountain Court Plaza. Hours will be 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily.

“This is going to be a very busy place,” Ameres said.

That expectation puts a smile on the faces of neighboring merchants like the Rikard brothers, tenants for 23 years with De Soto Coin Shop, and all those longtime Popi’s restaurant regulars.

“It’ll bring new people, so we’re happy about that,” Bill Rikard said.

“It’s really going to help this plaza,” Dan Rikard said.

Leslie Brooks, manager of Heitel Jewelers of Bradenton, echoed that.

“It’s a wonderful thing. People are excited. Even we have people coming in asking us every day, ‘When are they going to be open?’” said Brooks, who’s been at that location nine years.

The sixth in the Ameres family’s restaurant chain will be a 120-seat eatery staffed by 35 and built from scratch in a 4,000-square-foot space that last housed an Asian restaurant.

Work has been going on at the new location for two months with an estimated $100,000 already invested in the place.

“New floors, new walls, new equipment, new everything,” Ameres said. “It’s going to be beautiful.”

The family’s other restaurants are north of the Manatee River -- they sold the original Popi’s adjoining McKechnie Field -- so the move made sense geographically.

“I was looking for something a long time,” Ameres said. “We have a lot of people here on west side of Bradenton -- office workers, Blake Hospital, friends -- saying, ‘Come this way, come this way.’”

People like Gerry McClain.

“I’m so happy they’re coming here,” said the Village Green resident. “There’s no place at night to go have a sandwich.”

Frank Dills was a regular at Popi’s III in Ellenton, so this will be closer.

“I’ll be here quite a bit,” the 76-year-old said.

Such a following convinced the family the expansion would weather the down business climate.

“If the price is good, the food is good, the service is good, that’s all you need for a restaurant to be suc- cessful,” Ameres said. “I know the economy is down, but people got to go somewhere if they’re hungry.”

Which prompted this exchange when some- body else came in the door. “When you open?” they said.

“You want a job?” Ameres said.

“No, I don’t want a job,” they said. “I want to eat.”

“Then come back next Wednesday,” he said.

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.