By KEVIN BRADY
Cracker Barrel, the popular restaurant chain almost as famous for its nostalgic country store as its food, is the latest business to move into the 30-acre Riverview 14 project on Gibsonton Drive near I-75.
The restaurant is expected to open in the late spring or early summer in 2019 with architects close to submitting plans to Hillsborough County.
Goodrich Riverview 14 GDX Movie Theater and Gastropub was the first business to open on the Riverview 14 property in March 2017 with Zaxby’s Chicken opening a month later. Dunkin’ Donuts and T-Mobile followed in June 2017. Cracker Barrel will be building a 10,400-square-foot restaurant and Old Country Stores next to the 14-screen movie theater.
“With over 645 locations in 44 states, Cracker Barrel is very successful when conveniently located along highway interchanges in markets like Riverview and the adjacent shopping, and entertainment venues at Riverview 14 provide added traffic for their restaurant and store,” said Terry A. Benton, vice president of real estate for the Strathmore Real Estate Group, which is developing the property.
Riverview residents with a taste for a southern-style comfort food and rocking chairs while you wait currently have to navigate Brandon’s notorious traffic to reach the nearest Cracker Barrel.
An Alabama native who now lives in Gibsonton, Tommy Denny, is eager to see Cracker Barrel come to town.
“The food there is great, and I love the atmosphere,” said Denny as he left Walmart on Gibsonton Drive, which will face the new restaurant. “I’ll be taking my granddaughter there with me.”
“You have other restaurants around here like Village Inn and Fred’s Market, but Cracker Barrel is a different atmosphere with the old candy and stuff you can’t find anywhere else,” said Bruce Woods, a 10-year Riverview resident.
The Four Stacks Brewing Company of Apollo Beach is also opening a new bar on the property. Larger than the company’s Apollo Beach location, it will include a nearly 2,000 square foot outdoor seating “beer garden” in addition to 2,100 square feet of climate controlled indoor space.
Developers also expect to break ground next month on a 120-room Extended Stay America hotel “featuring the chain’s newest prototype,” Benton said. “We listened to the market and have continued to hear from other local businesses and area residents that the area south of the Alafia River really could use a new hotel.”
One of the Riverview 14’s first tenants, Zaxby’s Chicken co-owner Matthew Wortman thinks the new businesses will be good for all the neighboring firms.
“I am excited for (Cracker Barrel) to open and can’t wait for it to be done. I know it will bring more people to the area and that is good for everyone,” Wortman said.
Developers are banking on high traffic volume and continued growth bringing in customers. Some 162,546 people – 59, 429 households — live within 5 miles of the project with the area growing at 2.1 percent a year, according to U.S. Census figures. Gibsonton Drive sees 28,800 vehicles a day with 147,500 vehicles using I-75 in the area daily, according to Florida Department of Transportation figures.
Cracker Barrel won’t be the last business to open at Riverview 14. “We are close to (announcing) another major tenant that everyone will enjoy,” Benton said.
For more information on the property, email Benton at email@example.com.