RIVERVIEW — Michael Sells traveled to San Antonio, Texas, in 2011 to see his oldest son, Erik, complete basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base.
But he ended up seeing a breakfast spot that would change his life.
"I headed across the street from my hotel to a weird place called the Egg & I," said Sells, a 15-year Brandon resident. "I fell in love with where the concept was going."
Later that year, Sells bounced entrepreneurial ideas off his middle son, Bryant, 24, gained the approval of his wife, Renelda, and attended a franchise expo in South Florida.
As a result, Sells brings the first the Egg & I breakfast and lunch restaurant to the Tampa Bay area. Scheduled to open Monday in a newly constructed building at Winthrop Town Centre, the eatery will be the third Florida location for the Colorado business that formed in 1987 and has grown to more than 85 locations in 19 states.
Sells, who spent the past 31 years in the IT industry, calls the restaurant an "upscale breakfast" devoid of deep fryers. The menu features more than 60 breakfast options and 20-plus lunch choices. Sells said the Egg & I has considered scaling back its offerings in other locations, but found that customers have equal appreciation for the many staples.
Stephen Davis, the kitchen manager with a Village Inn background, said he would focus on preparing "good, quality food" such as their popular benedicts ($8.99), soups ($4.49 a bowl) and specialty whole wheat pancakes ($6.29) featuring granola and apple slices. The 3,600-square-foot restaurant will have room to seat 144 inside and 29 outside. It also will feature a signature meeting room, free to book, that Sells hopes will attract Rotary clubs, sports teams, school clubs, veterans, baby showers and anything else you can dream up.
"It has to be a fun experience," he said. "We want a connection with the local neighborhood."
General manager Damen LaRussa, who spent the past five years working at Buffalo Wild Wings, said organizations already have booked the community room, which will offer a specialty menu. He also indicated that "we are community involved" and understands that it's all about getting people seated as expeditiously as possible and "hiring the right people." So don't be surprised to run into some former staffers displaced by the recent Barnacles closing.
On Sunday, the Egg & I will host an invitation-only fundraiser for ECHO, the Emergency Care Help Organization where Sells' youngest son, Jonathan, 21, has volunteered.
Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Eric Vician can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.