Businesses expand to serve more residents

Rafael Cornejo, of Fiesta Grande Mexican Grill in the Colony Plaza Shopping Center, serves customers Julie Heitzenrater and Martin Wilkinson, of Pittsburgh, on Friday.

Jessie Reyes sees The Villages growing and wants to grow with it. Reyes, one of the owners of Fiesta Grande Mexican Grill, is working with the other owners on opening a second restaurant location in the area to have more space and grow their clientele. Other local businesses also are expanding and choosing to keep their expansions in the area. Stick and Stone Flooring is planning to open a new location. The Standard opened a second location shortly after opening its first, and Jewelry Design recently expanded after several decades of focusing on one location. Scott Renick, The Villages director of commercial development, sees a trend of businesses in The Villages opening more locations. “Businesses in The Villages that provide quality and great service create a loyal following, and growing to meet the needs of our community is a natural progression from that success,” Renick said.

Fiesta Grande Mexican Grill opened its first location in Colony Plaza about 10 years ago.

The restaurant offers authentic Mexican cuisine and Tex-Mex-style foods.

The new location will be in Brownwood, provide more space and have new features. The Colony Plaza location is about 2,500 square feet, and the Brownwood location will be 3,641 square feet. The new restaurant will have an outdoor bar with space for live music. Inside, it will have a space for staff to make tortillas from scratch.

Reyes has been working in The Villages restaurant scene since he was 18. He likes the atmosphere, lifestyle, clientele and quick pace of the community, he said.

“The Villages is awesome,” he said. “It’s like a dream coming true opening a new place from scratch.”

Originally the Brownwood location was set to open in the fall but with the COVID-19 pandemic, plans changed. The owners hope to open at the end of the year, or the very beginning of 2021.

“We are striving to get everything to open,” Reyes said.

Jewelry Design currently has two locations in The Villages to its name.

The first store opened in La Plaza Grande in 1999.

In the past two decades, the business gained loyal customers and added more services. In November 2019, a second location opened in Southern Trace Plaza.

Business has gone well for both locations. The La Plaza Grande store has more established customers while the Southern Trace store sees a mix of new and returning customers, said Jay Gulati, one of the owners.

Gulati wanted to open a second location for some time, and looked for a space for more than five years before finding the Southern Trace spot. He knew he wanted a second store in that area, and once the space became available, the timing was right to move forward.

One tip Gulati has for businesses looking to open another location is to find the right spot. The location is important, he said.

“I don’t think you can go wrong anywhere in The Villages,” Gulati said.

While Jewelry Design didn’t open its second location until two decades after opening its first, The Standard opened its second location a few months after first starting business in the area.

The Standard opened its first location in Spanish Plaines Plaza in February. Shortly after, the family-owned business opened its second location in early June in the Center for Advanced Healthcare at Brownwood.

Matt Hepner, who owns the coffee business with his family, thought it would be a good idea to have a second location, but he and his family weren’t actively looking. When they saw there was an opportunity down south to open a space, they jumped at it.

“It definitely wasn’t part of the plan,” Hepner said.

The Standard location in Spanish Plaines is a Christian library and lounge where staff focus on making specialty coffee from different regions of the world. The Brownwood location does not include a library.

The Hepners opened both locations in The Villages because they love the area.

“We know it’s an exciting, up-and-coming place and we thought it was a really good spot to do specialty coffee,” Hepner said.

Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, business has been going well for both locations.

Stick and Stone Flooring, a flooring company in Wildwood, is opening a second location in Lady Lake.

“It’s a pretty good expansion for us,” said Jonathan Barkman, one of the owners.

With the new location the business can extend its services. Adding another location that is twice the size of the Wildwood location will allow Stick and Stone Flooring to carry more products such as carpet and tile. At the Wildwood location, carpet and tile isn’t carried.

The new space will help with demand.

The hope is to have a soft opening for the Lady Lake location in July and a grand opening in August.

The goal always was to offer more services and a second location allows for that. The owners felt it was the best move and the area where the Lady Lake store is situated gets a lot of foot traffic that will allow for exposure the business doesn’t have at its Wildwood location, Barkman said.

“We’re very excited. The demand we have seen has been there.” Barkman said. “We’re excited to actually reach out into the market and grow ... We just started as a small, owner-operated venture and to be able to see it grow and continue to grow is exciting.”

Staff writer Summer Jarro can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5404, or