Road to recovery? Amid vacancies, A1A successes sprout

New businesses, including Hard Rock, Landshark, hope to spark growth along A1A

DAYTONA BEACH — It was a tad chilly for morning margaritas on the Atlantic Ocean side of State Road A1A.

But that was the drink of choice in late January as area leaders toasted the opening of the Jimmy Buffett-branded LandShark Bar & Grill and adjoining, separately-owned Cocina 214 Tex-Mex eatery on a 6-acre beachfront lot just north of SunSplash Park.

“It has been a really fast year in making this happen,” said John Albright, president and CEO of Consolidated-Tomoka Land Co., landowner and developer of the $6 million dual-restaurant project at 451 S. Atlantic Ave.

“Our whole mission here is basically to get this property activated and get the beachside activated,” Albright told customers, employees, Parrotheads and local dignitaries assembled in the parking lot. “To me, this is the potential of Daytona Beach, and this is a start, and there’s a lot more to come.”

New development on A1A has long been overshadowed by the overwhelming number of vacant lots and empty storefronts that blemish the iconic roadway that runs north and south along the World’s Most Famous Beach.

The new restaurants are touted as a potential catalyst that can ignite other beachside development. A little more than a month after opening, both eateries are reporting healthy business, poised to become success stories along the 10.5-mile stretch of A1A from Ormond Beach to Daytona Beach Shores.

“We’re ecstatic at being here,” said David Crabtree, president and CEO of Orlando-based IMCMV, licensee of the restaurant chain started by Buffett’s Margaritaville Holdings company. “It has exceeded all our expectations.”

Lounging recently on one of the restaurant’s bright yellow, heavily branded wooden deck chairs, Crabtree caught the attention of Rich Torella, the restaurant’s general manager, to compliment him on two record days the previous weekend.

“Actually, every week has been a record week for this place,” Crabtree said. “We’re doing about 50 percent more business than we planned on doing. We’ve been received very well by all the tourists and local consumers, as well.”

Next door, as the early lunch crowd arrived at Cocina 214, restaurant co-founder Lambrine Macejewski echoed that satisfaction. The beachfront spot is the second location for the eatery, which has established a loyal following at its original Winter Park restaurant, which opened in 2011.

“We just had the Daytona 500 and we did really well with that,” said Macejewski, who is optimistic about the potential impact of other new projects on A1A. “It’s all great and positive. The community is full of wonderful people.”

Yet she also understands that two new restaurants are merely the start of a long process.

“It takes perseverance, especially when you’re trying to change big things,” Macejewski said.

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