Rusty Bucket President Prepared To Go Big In Florida

Rusty Bucket Restaurant and Tavern isn’t just flirting with Florida – it wants to commit.

The Columbus-based pub chain last month announced plans to open its first restaurant outside the Midwest next year in Naples, Fla. President Gary Callicoat told me that expansion is going to become the rule for the chain, not the exception.

“We’d been looking to get outside the Midwest,” he said.

While there still are plans in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana, the states that currently have Rusty Buckets, growing in the Sunshine State is a priority. It’ll start with the 4,300-square-foot Rusty Bucket opening at the Mercato, a 53-acre mixed-use development in Naples.

“We’d been wanting to get in there,” Callicoat said. “We think (the restaurant) transfers well.”

He said he likes Naples and the entire Gulf Coast because there are plenty of Ohio and Midwest transplants and when looking at Florida, he thinks the brand will work anywhere north of Miami.

“East-to-west, Orlando, even up to the panhandle,” he said. “Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Bonita Springs, St. Petersburg.“

Florida isn’t the only non-Midwest target. Callicoat said the brand is shopping for space in the Charlotte, N.C., market too.

And though the Southeast is seen as a big opportunity, the growth attention isn’t exclusively on warmer climes.

A restaurant at Easton Town Center opened in June. A Mason restaurant is scheduled to open this fall and Callicoat told me the first Pittsburgh Rusty Bucket is expected to open next year near Robinson Township.

Dan Eaton Columbus Business First | August 27, 2013