TAMPA — Longtime Tampa residents get misty-eyed when you mention Goody Goody, the iconic restaurant known for its pies and bags of hamburgers "POX" — that's pickles, onions and the fabled secret sauce. On Monday restaurateur Richard Gonzmart announced he is bringing it all back in a new Goody Goody.
"My earliest memories were the Columbia and Goody Goody. It was a big deal to go sit in your car and the lady would come up and take your order and you'd eat inside the car and listen to the radio," said Gonzmart, the Columbia Restaurant Group's fourth generation co-owner and president, who opened the acclaimed Ulele earlier this year.
After nine years of off-and-on negotiations, Gonzmart purchased rights to the Goody Goody name from Michael Wheeler of Tampa, who had owned it since 1981. The deal also includes the recipe to the restaurant's famous "secret sauce" and some furniture, including the distinctive Goody Goody sign.
Gonzmart is still considering Tampa locations, but he plans to open in 2015. His aim is somewhere close to the second and longest-lasting Goody Goody, which was on Florida Avenue, opened in 1930 and demolished in 2006. He is considering a second location at the airport but acknowledges details are still sketchy.
"Life's like a game of Monopoly — you're trying to build on Boardwalk over Baltic Avenue. But at this stage of my life branching out outside of where I live is not what interests me. I'd rather preserve and invest in the city," he said. "All I want to do is save the brand. I feel like the caretaker."
Gonzmart tinkered for years trying to perfect the sauce ("there's no mayo, it's more like a tomato puree"), but says Goody Goody's pies are what linger in his memories ("they were known for their butterscotch, but I liked the coconut cream"). But what he really hopes to bring back is a way of life.
"It's a throwback to yesteryear when everything was good and people were happy, and there weren't any cellphones and people not talking," Gonzmart says, adding jokingly, "I learned so much from watching Andy of Mayberry."
Regardless of the initial location, former owner Wheeler is pleased with the outcome.
"When the property was sold back in 2005, we were terribly disappointed when the new owners wanted the business to vacate the premises immediately. But Richard Gonzmart's passion for reopening the Goody Goody and the detail he puts into all of his projects means that there will be new life for (it)."
Gonzmart says that although it has been gone for nearly 10 years, "if you're from Tampa and you're my age then you know Goody Goody."
What will the resurrection mean in the face of so many new contemporary restaurants in Tampa? According to Betty Zistler, 84, Tampa born and raised, it's returning a little piece of history to the city.
"What I remember most fondly is that in the 1940s my father loved it. He was an automobile mechanic and never had a lot of extra spending money. That was his one big splurge, to go and get his butterscotch pie. At that time it was a treat to drive from Seminole Heights to get a piece of pie or a hamburger."
Will she be making the trek to the new Goody Goody?
"Oh, we'll definitely do that."
Contact Laura Reiley at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley.