Even with the shopping center at the southeast corner of the Pope Road and State Road 64 intersection currently under construction, Billy Wolf, the director of leasing for North American Properties, said he has received letters and calls from the community anticipating its opening.
“I get calls once a week from moms telling me who to put there and that the area needs more restaurants,” Wolf said.
He said by early 2023, all outlets are expected to be open, and the shopping center, which is anchored by Publix, is set to feature multiple restaurants as well as other services.
The announced tenants are Culver’s, Wellness Animal Hospital, Tropical Smoothie, Glitz Nail Salon, Great Clips and the UPS Store.
Other expected, and yet unannounced, businesses include an Asian-themed fast-casual restaurant new to Lakewood Ranch, a national fast-casual pizza restaurant, a retail bank, a national dental office, and either a branch of a real estate company or a medical spa.
A common theme ran through the comments of business owners moving to the area — the under-serviced nature of this part of Lakewood Ranch.
Steve Sherman, owner of the Culver's restaurant, said as the community grew, he began searching for a location to open in addition to the Culver’s he already operated on State Road 70. He said he and his wife, Dori Sherman, searched for several years and finally settled upon the area at Pope Road.
“We fell in love with that area,” he said. “With the growth in Lakewood Ranch being so tremendous, we wanted to pioneer that area while it was new, and we took the opportunity to be one of the first in.”
The restaurant will be the first Culver’s in Florida to feature a double-lane drive thru.
The shopping center aims to meet not only the needs of the people in the community but their animal companions as well.
Dr. Nina Krajewski, who is opening Wellness Animal Hospital in the shopping center, is anxious to start her business and "treat some furry family members."
A native of Sarasota, Krajewski established Dr. Nina’s Animal Hospital in Sarasota in 2005 but later sold the business to a corporation. Krajewski said she quickly realized that the corporate side of veterinary services was not well suited to her way of treating patients, so she decided to build a new private practice.
"Corporations are good, and they have their place," she said. "I think that the thing that I enjoy about a privately-owned practice is you really can spend more time with the clients. it's not necessarily about numbers."
Krajewski said the close-knit team that forms through a private practice like this will also be a factor in the quality of the interactions with pet owners.
She wants to create a positive experience rather than simply treat patients.
"In many cases there is more personability, or I would say a little bit more of a positive type of atmosphere, when it’s private," Krajewski said. "That's certainly what I strive to have in my hospital. When a patient needs extra special attention, I want to be able to give that to them and same thing with the owners. Some people need extra hand holding because of what's going on with their loved ones, and so I need to be able to do that and not necessarily get back into another room and see somebody else."
Krajewski said she settled on the location of Pope Road not only because she observed a demand for veterinary services in the area but also because she saw other animal hospitals becoming overbooked and wanted to offer them relief.
"I think they're doing a great job in that area to build a community in that area,” Krajewski said acknowledging apartment buildings set to be constructed in the area of the shopping center.
Wolf said the apartments will include 250 units and will open at the same time as the other businesses.
Another option for both food and drink at the shopping center will be Tropical Smoothie.
Dan Beaulieu, a co-owner of future Tropical Smoothie, said Tropical Smoothie is one of the fastest-growing brands in the country. He said since he branched out to the restaurant after opening Five Guys restaurants in 2008, Tropical Smoothie has grown in number from 600 to 1,000 locations nationwide.
Like others who opened locations in the area, Beaulieu also cited its under-serviced and developing nature.
“That whole section on the east side doesn't have a ton of food options,” he said. “I see a lot more restaurants going in now, but it'll be a little behind the amount of people that are there.”
He chose the location because he believed in its business potential.
“We just saw the growth from Lakewood Ranch heading north and started to see White Eagle Boulevard construction booming, south of that center,” Beaulieu said.
Beaulieu co-owns the restaurant with his brother Matt Beaulieu and their friend Joe Hudson, with the three owners comprising the company Two Bros and a Joe.
The company currently operates the Tropical Smoothie at the intersection of 57th Street East and State Road 64 and is preparing to open a third location in Manatee County.
Wolf said that overall, he expects the shopping center to succeed with the demographics in the area, which consists of numerous families.
“I think they’re all going to be very happy,” he said.