VALRICO — Jeff Marlin was living the golf lifestyle in Memphis when he met Chris Burnett at a St. Jude Hospital benefit a few years ago.
Marlin worked as a golf course supervisor and caddied for a friend on the PGA Seniors Tour, but he also earned a reputation as a barbecue champion, winning people's choice awards in Tennessee.
Burnett, who owned Burnett's Family Restaurant in Seffner, hired Marlin to provide barbecue for the benefit.
"We teamed up from there," said Marlin, 53.
After four years in Seffner, the business partners have relocated and rebranded as CJ's Restaurant and Bar, taking the first initials from their first names. After months of searching for the right location, CJ's opened April 30 at 1903-F State Road 60 in the Valrico Square shopping center.
Marlin and Burnett opted for a no-frills launch, simply hanging some flags outside the door and more than 60 people found them on opening day. CJ's offers American fare, with separate breakfast, lunch, dinner and after 9 p.m. bar menus.
Marlin lists rotating specials on the walls and promises some of his off-menu barbecue specials a couple times a month. He recommends regular favorites like Burnett's homemade meatloaf for $7.59, the $6.99 smoked bologna or the CJ's burger, which is a pound of beef stacked between three slices of Texas toast with all the fixings. Kid's meals are available for $4.29.
"People work," Marlin said about the competitive prices of CJ's food. "I'm not trying to get rich on them. This is the right thing to do."
Burnett said local workers are happy to have an alternative. The restaurant seats approximately 100 patrons and includes a bar area that Marlin painted Harley-Davidson orange.
"What I like about this place is there is lot of traffic," Burnett said.
Marlin built a stage area to accommodate live music, including a pianist, and he's still weighing the pros and cons of karaoke. Either way, he promises a family atmosphere and plans to stay open from 6:30 a.m. to "close" Monday through Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays. Call CJ's at (813) 643-1903.
Old auto lot in Valrico gains owner, new life
A Georgia automobile retailer has announced plans to sell a large selection of pre-owned vehicles from the 46,000 square-foot facility located at 1207 E Brandon Blvd. across from the Valrico Walmart.
Asbury Automotive Group will be the third auto company to operate out of the location that began in 2006 as Brandon Auto Mall before Kuhn Auto Mall opened last August.
Duluth-based Asbury Automotive Group, a publicly traded company, operates 18 autogroups throughout the United States, including Courtesy Autogroup in Tampa. It has created a new brand called Q Auto, which it says will open next month in Brandon with a second location scheduled to launch in Jacksonville this fall.
Asbury's president and CEO, Craig T. Monaghan said in a media release that the company has grown used vehicle retail unit sales in excess of 55 percent and grown used vehicle retail gross profit by close to 35 percent during the past three years.
The Q stands for Quality, Quantity, Quickly, attributes the company hopes to pass on to customers via a fast and easy sales process that includes a large selection of vehicles. Asbury plans to invest $25 million in opening the two Q auto locations and plans to carry mass-market and luxury brands that are 2 to 5 years old.
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