Leonardo’s by the Slice to Remain Open for Another Year After Being Bought by UF
Leonardo’s by the Slice, a local eatery serving Gainesville since 1973, will remain open for at least another year after being purchased by the University of Florida Foundation.
The deal, initiated by owner Steve Solomon, also includes the adjacent restaurant Bistro 1245 and required Leonardo’s to stay open until at least the summer of 2017. However, the university has not yet made plans for the property.
The quarter-acre property, located on West University Avenue, will become the newest of a series of nearby purchases, including the neighboring Kangaroo Express gas station and convenience store and the vacant lot south of the gas station.
The university is determining the best use for the property, according to Lee Nelson, UF’s real estate director.
Solomon, now 69, plans to focus his efforts on the original site of Leonardo’s by the Slice, Leonardo‘s 706 located at 706 West University Ave.
Increased competition, students’ changing tastes and the growing effort of maintaining multiple locations influenced his decision, Solomon said in a release.
“We’ve always had a great relationship with the university,” Solomon said in the release. “We’ve been collaborating with the university for 43 years. It makes me feel really good to do this with them.”
Ken Peng, a Gainesville resident of 11 years and owner and food critic behind popular blog “Ken Eats Gainesville,” sees the redevelopment around University Avenue as a positive thing for Gainesville’s community.
Peng believes the university, which has recently begun construction expanding its super-incubator the Innovation Hub, will likely use the site to help grow its office space.
While Peng is not a frequent customer, he believes Leonardo’s By The Slice took a backseat to its upscale sibling Leonardo’s 706.
Leonardo’s by the Slice joins a list of other local closures this year, including The Jones B-Side, Cantina 101 and Burrito Brothers, with oZoo and Dough Religion slated to close as well.
“I do not think any of these closures are necessarily bad things,” said Peng. “Everything has a lifespan, and things close for various reasons.”
“We’re seeing exponential growth and an increase in competition,” he said. “It’s a healthy thing for places to step their game up.”
Some local business owners, like Burrito Brothers owner Randy Akerson, have been attributing these closures to the construction of the future apartment complex The Standard on University Ave.
Peng believes the blame was exaggerated, mentioning the success of local businesses like Bangkok Square and Crane Ramen, which are both opening second locations, and Maple Street Biscuit Company and Public and General, both of which are rumored to be following suit.
“Rapid development does not kill business. Poor businesses kill business,” said Peng. “All development does is increase the competition so that the poor ones that could once skate by are no longer able to do so,” he said.
“If you had a car that was falling apart, but that was all you could afford, it’s not so bad,” said Peng. “But once you have some more money and you have choices, all of a sudden that car doesn’t seem so nice anymore,” he said.
As for standing the test of time, Peng believes restaurants must evolve, continue to improve and not become stagnant to survive.
“The Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency is renovating the entire midtown area, making it more pedestrian friendly, better lit and is giving it a facelift,” said Peng of the area’s plans for renovation.
“In economic terms, it is hard to measure today the exact impact of all of the activity in the vicinity of the University Avenue and 13th St. intersection because it continues to be in a state of flux,” said Alyssa Brown, communications director at the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce. “We are seeing a lot of new business activity and development in the area.”
“Over time, as the area continues to evolve, so will our ability to measure is impact through the opportunities it provides via jobs and other economic activity,” she said.
Brianna Collins, 22, was a Gainesville resident for four and a half years before moving to Virginia.
Collins frequented Leonardo’s at least five times a month due to its convenient location and affordable pricing.
Collins called the closure “a very unfortunate result of growing student body and limited resources.”
“We should focus on preserving local businesses and quality of service off and on campus,” said Collins. “Limited choices means less variety and less economic and social benefit.”
“Considering UF bought the space, let’s hope they use the land for improving upon students quality of life—off and on campus,” she said.