After three restaurants have come and gone from the building at 1400 Main St., Bill Robinson is hoping to buck a trend in more ways than one.
Robinson co-owns Fit2Run, a chain of running stores throughout Florida that plans to open a location this June at 1400 Main St. Although property owner Chris Brown was initially targeting a restaurant as a tenant, Robinson was determined to establish his business at the prominent Five Points corner.
“This location was, I think, the most prominent retail opportunity in not only Sarasota, but in Southwest Florida,” Robinson said.
Robinson lives in Bradenton and has ties to the Sarasota area. His first 10K, which he ran in the mid-1970s, began and ended in the city. He said he was interested in establishing similar events in Sarasota. Hosting events is one of the features Fit2Run offers beyond its retail services, and a reason why Robinson believes it is a good fit for the heart of the city.
“They're kind of our way of giving back to the community, where we will create the event, run the event and give all the proceeds to a charity in the area,” Robinson said.
Robinson said Five Points Park, in particular, was a location that offered potential for citywide events, and a reason why the Main Street building was so attractive.
Still, Robinson is a business owner first and foremost. The location appealed to that side of him, too. He said Sarasota is an active community, and the Main Street area is a burgeoning retail hub. Between Whole Foods, Starbucks and Brooks Brothers, he said more established retailers see downtown as an enticing option.
“It's a place where people want to live, they want to eat, they want to shop,” Robinson said. “We want to be a part of that.”
Patrick’s Restaurant, Patty’s on Main and Florribbean Restaurant have each occupied the building since 2011. Brown, who bought the 17,000-square-foot building in May, said he fielded offers from many restaurant groups, but that Fit2Run was an appealing occupant because it was willing to take on the entire building.
Brown said restaurants are usually more lucrative than retail shops for property owners, but that the city has been pushing for more retail locations downtown. He said the onus is now on the city to make his decision a financially viable one.
“The city really needs to embrace it,” Brown said. “The residents need to support it.”
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