Uncle Nick's

When Uncle Nick’s opens its downtown location at NoBay in a few months, it will offer more than the bagels and restaurant fare of its other two locations. The new store will sell grocery staples and convenience items aimed at the growing number of people living downtown.

Think: milk, eggs, bread, ice, fruit, aspirin, toiletries, soft drinks, even six packs of beer and bottles of wine. “We’ll have staples you want to pick up on the way home,” said co-owner Nick DeBellis. Also, homemade frozen entrees will be available for takeout, he said.

“The public told us and Broadway told us that there’s an opportunity to do retail, and we’re going to capitalize on that,” he said. The Broadway he mentioned is Broadway Real Estate Services, which developed the NoBay apartment-and-shopping complex.

Uncle Nick’s N.Y. Style Bagels, Subs and Deli at 304 N. Kentucky Ave. will occupy four of the 11 retail storefronts available at NoBay, stretching along Kentucky Avenue from the patio at Kentucky and Bay Street to the spot occupied by Jesse Carl Vinyl, a record store.

At 2,000 square feet, the restaurant will be more than double the size of the Uncle Nick’s location on Edgewood Drive and a third again larger than the original store on Shepherd Road. Seating for 50 or more is planned, including outdoor tables on the patio, DeBellis said. He said he hopes to open in mid to late March.

News of the plan to offer groceries comes as Broadway President Matt Clark said his company has leased 40 percent of its 55 apartments, adding about 50 residents to downtown. At full occupancy, he estimates 100 to 150 people will live at NoBay.

(Out of the remaining six retail spaces, two are in lease talks but nothing’s been signed yet, Clark says, so he has no tenant announcements for now.)

The concept of grocery staples and convenience items isn’t new to downtown. Terisa Glover operated The General Store four blocks away at 125 S. Kentucky Ave. for six years before shutting its doors in 2013 and combining forces with Ellen Simms a few doors down at Two Hens and a Hound on SoKen.

Glover says The General Store was “just before its time” and predicts Uncle Nick’s will do well. “They have the residents right there as well as the great food,” she said. “People do have to realize that there is a cost for convenience, though. You can’t get big box store prices at the mom ‘n pop groceries; the volume just isn’t there for them to get the same pricing.”

Uncle Nick’s estimates total redevelopment costs at more than $250,000 and applied for grants totaling $20,000 from the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority, an organization funded by downtown property owners.

The LDDA board last week approved a $15,000 food-related services incentive grant and a $5,000 interior buildout grant to be paid as reimbursements once the business is open and the owners submit documentation. (For details, see the memo below.)

Other than groceries, the new Uncle Nick’s location will differ from the other two locations by serving beer and wine (assuming a license application is approved) and staying open in the evening with expanded dinner options.  Added options are likely to include wings, steaks, and chopped salads to complement the parmigiana entrees, cheesesteaks and burgers on the current menu, DeBellis said.

Uncle Nick’s recently hired a full-time baker who works at the Shepherd Road location and has added items like black-and-white cookies and homemade quiches to the menu. He also said a new steam technology has improved the bagel-baking process.

Nick DeBellis, who is president and CEO of Elite Sampling and Media in Bethel, Conn., co-owns Uncle Nick’s with his cousin, Lakeland resident Ken DeBellis. The restaurants are named for Nick’s dad, who owned a deli in New York for 25 years.

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Barry Friedman founded Lkldnow.com in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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