By Joe Crews
For Hometown News
Sonny's Real Pit Bar-B-Q restaurant will open its doors Monday, Sept. 10, at 1500 N. Woodland Blvd. in DeLand.
The new Sonny's occupies a building that formerly was a Friendly's, which closed a year ago. (Another Friendly's in Daytona Beach closed in January, marking that chain's exit from the Volusia County market.)
James McNabb, the franchisee, said a friend who lives in DeLand has been urging him for several years to open a Sonny's in the city.
"When the Friendly's space opened up, I grabbed it," Mr. McNabb said.
Volusia County property records show Mr. McNabb paid $850,000 for the property in May, but he declined to say how much money he sank into renovating the building inside and out.
"We did an extensive remodeling, right down to the studs," he said. "Hopefully, this will bring more business to the area and to the shopping center."
The restaurant is on an out parcel at Gateway Shopping Center's northern segment, where a former Food Lion and several storefronts are vacant. Another vacancy will come at the end of September, when Space Coast Credit Union closes its north DeLand branch.
Mr. McNabb said he hired 85 employees from 1,100 applications.
The Sonny's will have plenty of competition in the barbecue business in DeLand. A Dustin's Bar-B-Q replaced a different Sonny's on South Woodland Boulevard in 2007, and there's a Brian's Bar-B-Que on Spring Garden Avenue.
"I think there's enough clientele to go around," Mr. McNabb said. "I like my location."
It doesn't hurt that a Walmart Supercenter is less than a half-mile north on Woodland Blvd.
City and chamber officials are pleased the new restaurant is opening.
"Of course, we're very excited about another restaurant on that corner," said Bob Turk, DeLand's economic development manager. "It's an entrance to the city, and we're glad there's not an empty building there any longer. ... "We think that's going to be a kickoff to more development in that shopping center."
Nick Conte, executive director of the DeLand Area Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the addition to one of DeLand's "marquee corners."
"It's a great chain, great food, and we think it's going to do well at that location," he said. "You always hope one popular anchor has a kind of wildfire effect and starts more activity."
This is the seventh Sonny's location for Mr. McNabb; his other restaurants are in Palm Coast, Titusville, Merritt Island, Viera, Palm Bay and Vero Beach.
The DeLand restaurant is Volusia County's third Sonny's now, although three others - in Daytona Beach, Holly Hill and Port Orange - closed in 2008.
The Port Orange location reopened when Dale Coyne and his wife, Gail Coyne, took over the franchise. The Coynes also operate a Sonny's in Orange City. Dale Coyne is an Indy Car Series team owner and a former Champ Car auto racing team owner and driver.