VALRICO — Rob Wolfenden caught the franchise restaurant bug in the early 1990s as a teen.
He worked at Ruby Tuesday and Bennigan's while a student at Bloomingdale High School, then became involved with popular chains such as Rio Bravo Cantina, Chili's and Tijuana Flats during and after college.
Through it all, he has noticed a trend in the way diners like to enjoy their meals.
"From a dining perspective there has been a move to the fast-casual model the past 15 years," Wolfenden said.
That's why, with the help of some friends, he plans to make it quicker and easier to enjoy gyros, dolmades, spanakopita and baklava. Wolfenden will partner with fellow Valrico resident Chris Lewis to open a Little Greek restaurant next to Fresh Market in the Lithia Crossing shopping center Sept. 29.
The Valrico location will be the 18th for the Tampa-based chain, which is run by Nick Vojnovik, who spent 12 years as president of Beef 'O' Brady's restaurants.
"We believe in Nick," Wolfenden said.
He also believes in the made-from-scratch, prepared in-house, fresh-to-order concept for which Little Greek is known. Though your taste buds may first be calling for lamb, grape leaves or phyllo dough when you initially think of Greek dining staples, Wolfenden recommends a simple Greek salad with chicken.
"You'll be thrilled," Wolfenden said. "I stand behind it."
The 1,400-square-foot restaurant is at the corner of Lithia Pinecrest Road and Bloomingdale Avenue. Wolfenden said that he's also thinking about possible delivery service, something that only one other Little Greek has implemented.
Learn more at mylittlegreek.com.
Bubbaque's opens in Sun City Center
Bubbaque's celebrated the recent opening of its second SouthShore & Brandon location this week with a ribbon cutting at 3853 Sun City Blvd. The barbecue restaurant, which also has a location in Brandon, offers Pulled Pork, Texas brisket, chicken, Texas sausage, smoked turkey, jerk wings, mild wings, fried shrimp and chicken tenders, all while poking fun at life in the South. Proof lies in the fact you will find "sammiches" and red neck nachos on the menu.
For more information on the Sun City Center location, call (813) 634-3100.
Wee Boutique store grows a wee bit larger
Mandy Cassiano knew she wanted to expand her Wee Boutique children's store after customers in Apollo Beach greeted it with strong sales after its November opening.
She initially thought the retail space adjacent to 6122 U.S. 41 would serve to house larger items such as baby furniture, large toys and strollers.
Instead, Wee Boutique now plans an Oct. 1 grand opening to celebrate the growth of its custom creations.
What began as a secondary idea to fill some square footage in the back of the store with a handful of stay-at-home moms crafting, sewing, building and crocheting will now have a larger presence.
"We made it a more personalized gift store," Cassiano said. "We have a new monogram person who can personalize anything and everything."
Approximately two dozen mothers from Brandon to Bradenton custom-design everything from frames and birthday cards to dresses and baby slings. Unique offerings include hand-made American Doll clothes, superhero capes and pacifier clips.
"I planned for five or six moms but didn't expect it to grow like it did," Cassiano said.
The store also sells dance tights and costumes and pays consigners 50 percent of the sale prices of their items. Visit wee-boutique.com.
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