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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Franchises, business ventures seek off-campus retail spaces

Off-campus apartments are renting out their spaces for retail opportunities

Hungry students visited Bolay's new location on University Avenue to get the grand opening free meal on Thursday, March 2, 2023.
Hungry students visited Bolay's new location on University Avenue to get the grand opening free meal on Thursday, March 2, 2023.

Underneath off-campus student apartment complexes, businesses hope to claim one of the recently built retail spaces, promising further development to the growing college town.

With midtown and downtown Gainesville being popular areas of gathering for UF students, new businesses will create an even larger social scene. The multiple retail spaces under development will give students a place to socialize, study and relax. 

The vacant spaces underneath The Standard have seen multiple tenants over the years. Last year, the Target store under The Standard closed — whose space is still left vacant — and Bolay and Paris Baguette took empty spaces between Orange Theory and Bento. In the next few months, various food and personal services will also open along University Avenue. 

Bolay will have its grand opening Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

To celebrate the franchise’s second Gainesville location, they are giving away a free ‘bol’ and wrap. Customers have to register online and post about the new location on social media to receive the free meal.

Rush Bowls, a fruit bowl and smoothie franchise will also open underneath The Standard this month at 1360 W University Ave.

Rush Bowls’ owner Sean Byers, a 54-year-old Jacksonville resident, said he also plans to open more stores in St. Augustine and Jacksonville Beach. 

Byers had never heard of acai bowls when he and his daughter drove 45 minutes to eat them for the first time, he said.

“When somebody’s willing to drive that far to get something — that’s primarily how I focused in on it,” he said.

Bowls will start at $10.99, and a 24-ounce smoothie will start at $9.49. Rush bites, which are organic oat delights, will be sold for about $4 each. Healthy snacks, such as avocado toast, may be sold in the future, Byers said. 

Rush Bowls isn’t the only new restaurant on the block. 

Jason Hurst, a north Florida leasing broker, has seen the gradual increase in retail openings.

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“​​There's more than meets the eye,” he said. “I know that a lot of people are seeing the vacancies, but a lot of that is attributed to just the time for permitting.”

Permits for construction can take about four to six months to be approved. However, the pandemic has slowed this process because of excess demand to fill up the retail spaces. 

The Spot Barbershop, a Miami-based business, signed a lease to expand to Gainesville in December. It will also claim a space under The Standard.

This will be its first franchise outside of South Florida, he said. The barbershop provides more than just haircuts. Customers are treated to hair washes, complimentary drinks, style consultations and even a massage. 

There has been an influx of out-of-town businesses and capital interested in what’s taking place in Gainesville. Hurst said this boom in business is fueled by the energy of UF. 

“Obviously, it’s pretty cool to have a career around the retail business,” he said. “But it is even more alluring to be a part of changing the quality of life and excitement for those that live in Gainesville.”

Underneath the Hub on Third Avenue, Wild Pie, a 100% plant-based pizzeria from Jacksonville, has signed a lease, Hurst said. At the Hub on University Avenue, Raining Berries, another acai and coffee shop, has also signed.

“Just because it's not there and you don't see it, there is stuff moving in the background,” he said.

And that’s not all: A 14,000-square-foot food hall is also set to open in August at The Standard. 

City Food Hall will include 10 to 11 vendors, a full service bar and Topgolf swing suites, which are virtual reality sports simulators. 

The company prefers calling itself a “culinary incubator,” said Kenzie Motai, chief operating officer.

While some vendors have signed to work at the food hall, Motai said their names cannot be disclosed yet but he assured students would not be disappointed by their options.

“We try to find the best local talent that represents different cuisines,” he said. 

The food hall will be multi-purposeful, also acting as a place for gathering or studying. 

“The food hall acts almost like a big coffee shop,” Motai said. “Because there's no host systems, you can come and go as you please.”

Contact Sarah at sarahmarks0701@gmail.com. Or follow her on Twitter at @SarahMarks0701.

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