Q: What happened to KFC on the North Trail? Passed it the other day and all the signs were taken down. Are they reopening somewhere else? They just can’t make it in Naples; the original was on 41 and 26th Avenue North, then there were two in East Naples, and then they were at the recently closed location. What is going on with the company and Naples?
— Ken French, Naples
A: After leasing the Park Shore area property for 20 years in what eventually became a sweetheart deal, inflation finally caught up with K-Corp. Lee Inc., the Lee-Collier counties franchise of KFC.
Although K-Corp. knew for years that its lease would be up July 1 for the building at 3906 Ninth St. N., the regional franchisee for the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain did not secure a new space. It hit the pause button and shuttered its only true Naples location.
KFC employees at the former Naples location knew about the expiring lease, K-Corp. said, and were offered jobs at other KFC locations, the nearest being in Golden Gate and Bonita Springs.
“We offered them all transfers. Some decided not to take it,” said Monica Montgomery, a spokeswoman for K-Corp. Lee Inc., operated by James P. Abernathy for more than 20 years.
Still, Montgomery insists the Fort Myers-based K-Corp. plans to open another Naples location of the popular fast-food restaurant.
“We will return to the market at a later date,” she said. “We will. We will. It’s just timing.”
However, the company doesn’t have a timeline for opening another restaurant to replace the old Naples location, which Montgomery said was a strong store as far as performance is concerned.
“We haven’t started the process,” she said.
In the meantime, K-Corp. is focusing on its other finger-lickin’ franchise, Famous Dave’s. Another regional location for the barbecue chain is scheduled to open this summer in the former spot of Vapiano, which closed at the end of January in Gulf Coast Town Center in San Carlos Park.
The company plans future locations of Famous Dave’s in Naples, Montgomery said.
Nary a trace of Colonel Sanders exists at the old property at U.S. 41 North and Michigan Avenue. Construction on that site will begin in the fourth quarter for an early 2013 opening of a BankUnited branch, said Mary Harris, a spokeswoman for BankUnited. The bank will use the footprint and some of the walls of the existing building for the new branch, Harris said.
KFC enjoyed a "very, very good deal" at its last location, said David Stevens, a principal with Naples-based Investment Properties Corporation, which is representing the property owner.
“It was just an old rent, an old deal,” Stevens said. If a lease had been renegotiated with KFC, the restaurant operator would be paying more than double the rent they had been paying because of substantial changes in the market value in the decades since the original lease was signed, he said.
The former KFC drive-thru property was purchased in 2007 for $2.25 million by Arco Finance Inc., 4099 Ninth St. N., Naples, according to records on collierappraiser.com.
Meanwhile, Stevens and IPC are reporting “good activity” for a new tenant for the vacated space of the former Perkins Family Restaurant & Bakery in the nearby Park Shore Plaza.
After operating there for more than 25 years, Perkins closed in early February.
“We expect to execute an agreement within the next week or two,” Stevens said.
The 4,325-square-foot vacated building on a quarter-acre out-parcel along U.S. 41 is being marketed for lease to a new tenant or for redevelopment. Stevens is representing the property owners, Tenth Street Partners LLC.
MORE LOCAL RESTAURANT NEWS
■ Alpine Restaurant opened Monday in the Galleria Shoppes at Vanderbilt, 2355 Vanderbilt Beach Road, North Naples. Alpine owners Alex and Eva Stranavsky have added ciabatta sandwiches to the menu of German, Czech, Polish, Slovakian and Hungarian food they formerly served at Europia Bistro in Pebblebrooke Center until they closed at the end of April to relocate.
Beer and coffee, including cappuccinos and lattes, also are served with the Stranavsky’s wiener schnitzel, paprikash, goulash, pirogi, strudel and crepes.
Alpine is opening in a larger location than the former bistro. The 2,225-square-foot space formerly was the home of Bajio Mexican Grill until vacated earlier this year.
Although small signs are on the new restaurant’s door and in the windows, the large outdoor sign is not up yet. Alpine serves lunch and dinner every day from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Call 239-777-3359
■ Maguro Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi opened Tuesday morning in the Gateway Shoppes at North Bay shopping center on the northwest corner of Wiggins Pass Road and U.S. 41 North. Maguro is in a new unit in an outparcel building connected to Scottrade. Owner Vicky Zhang said the nearly 5,000-square-foot restaurant will seat 150 and feature 10 hibachi tables, where diners get a front-row seat as chefs prepare meals on tableside grills. Maguro is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; and until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 239-591-0003
■ Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt recently opened two area locations. The first opened in early May in Miromar Outlets, 10801 Corkscrew Road, Estero, followed by another in early June in the Village on Venetian Bay, 4200 Gulf Shore Blvd. N., Naples. Orange Leaf features a do-it-yourself toppings bar where patrons can add fresh fruits, nuts, brownie bites, candy and chocolate syrup to their dessert creations. The Naples location, 239-435-4533, is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 10 p.m. Sunday. The Estero shop, 239-949-7960, is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sunday.
■ SweetFrog, a self-serve frozen yogurt café chain based in Richmond, Va., opened its first Naples-area store June 15 in Pine Ridge Crossing at Airport-Pulling and Pine Ridge roads. SweetFrog opened next to Sunburst Café in the space formerly occupied by Smoothie King and Love Me, Love My Dog Pet Salon and Spa. The new frozen yogurt café is open noon to 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; and noon to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Call 239-919-8151
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"In the Know" is published Mondays and Wednesdays in the Naples Daily News. Find a complete archive of "In the Know" columns at naplesnews.com/intheknow.