Upscale Cooper's Hawk Winery and Restaurant restaurant saw opportunity with Lakewood Ranch's expansion south.
The arrival of Cooper's Hawk Winery and Restaurant, which opened June 28, is more proof of the drawing power of Lakewood Ranch.
Those driving along Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, which was extended south to Fruitville Road in March, 2020, will find the new "upscale casual" restaurant on the boulevard just before it intersects with Fruitville Road.
While the address officially will be Sarasota, the Lakewood Ranch sprawl southward with the Waterside development is a big reason Cooper's Hawk chose the location.
"I was on the committee when we researched this site and we knew about Lakewood Ranch," said Tom Koenigsberg, the chief operating officer for Cooper's Hawk. "We see this as an up-and-coming area. There is a lot of interest in wine, There are great incomes. The retail is developing here.
"And there are great people."
When Cooper's Hawk began looking at the area, not much existed on Fruitville Road just east of Interstate 75. With the knowledge Lakewood Ranch was building closer to Fruitville Road and with the Sarasota County urban sprawl headed east, it was perfect for the restaurant.
"This is what we call a greenfield project," Koenigsberg said. "Everything builds around you. "
Cooper's Hawk General Manager Pedro Torres said the area is perfect.
"Restaurants often go to high traffic areas, such as UTC," he said. "We look for areas where we can create community. If you come to us, we are going to wow you."
Torres said the area around the restaurant is still beginning to be developed and "that is our sweet spot."
From State Road 64 to Frruitville Road, Lakewood Ranch has just a handful of restaurants that would be considered fine dining. Cooper's Hawk will add to lineup.
"There are no table clothes, but this is fine dining," Koenigsberg said. "We did want to make it unintimidating. We wanted to make it look approachable."
It is the 13th site in Florida for Cooper's Hawk, but the closest one to the Sarasota location is Tampa. The Cooper's Hawk winery is located in Woodridge, Ill., although the wine actually comes from California.
The restaurant has 135 employees. Koenigsberg said hiring was tough until about two weeks ago when applications picked up and they filled all their positions.
The restaurant includes an outdoor dining area, a tasting room and a wine store. All the food on the menu is "made from scratch."
The wines at Cooper's Hawk are all produced by the company. The restaurant, which has 46 locations in the U.S., has 450,000 members in its wine club.
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