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Jax Daily Record Monday, Jun. 22, 202005:20 AM EST

Loyal clientele helps preserve Sorrento Italian Restaurant sale

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Jonathan Eddy was about to close on the restaurant when the pandemic hit. He decided to go through with the deal.
by: Katie Garwood Staff Writer

Not much could have made Jonathan Eddy question his decision to purchase Sorrento Italian Restaurant from longtime owner Luciano Russo – except for a global pandemic.

Just as Eddy was about to close on the $550,000 sale of the 3,600-square-foot Sorrento building, Gov. Ron DeSantis shuttered dining rooms at restaurants across the state, forcing them to serve customers with to-go orders only. 

“It was a tenuous week leading up to the closing,” Eddy said. 

He consulted friends, family and business contacts, seeking advice on what to do. He was torn between buying the restaurant or waiting for a better deal. 

“Every day I was thinking, who can I call, who can I get counsel from,” he said. “I talked to one person who said ‘Run the hell away,’ and the next person is like, ‘Think through this.’”

Despite advice from some who told him to walk away, one friend told Eddy to focus on the positive, and not the unknowns of the situation. 

“A friend of mine that I was talking to encouraged me to focus on what I did know. And what I did know and was confident in was that there was a 34-year history at Sorrento. And I did know there was a faithful, loyal clientele,” he said. “That really gave us some peace.”

Ultimately, Eddy bought the restaurant March 23, three days after dining rooms were ordered closed. Gary Montour, senior director with Colliers International’s Jacksonville office, represented Russo in the sale to Eddy through Eddy Holdings LLC. 

The business was sold separately, but the price was not disclosed. Sorrento is located at 6943 St. Augustine Road in San Jose. 

“I think the more (Eddy) got to meet Luciano, and the more he looked online and saw all the happy people, he knew he was buying something special,” Montour said. 

Luciano Russo, Gary Montour and new Sorrento Italian Restaurant owner Jonathan Eddy.

The next day, Eddy opened the restaurant for takeout, serving 50 meals that night. Throughout the shutdown, takeout was up and down, he said. But it “did help pay the bills.” 

As a higher-end restaurant, takeout was more difficult and often lacked additional sales of wine or desserts with meals. 

On slower nights, Eddy wanted to train with his staff and settle into owning the restaurant. 

“There were a couple nights I was calling friends and family saying ‘Hey, put your order in,’” he said. “You don’t have to pay for it, but I want a ticket for the kitchen, I want the kitchen cooking. Getting some of that momentum going was helpful to us.”

Eddy previously worked in the food industry, as well as in wholesale seafood with Beacon Fisheries. 

Russo operated Sorrento since 1986 and sought to sell the building and the business so he could retire. There are about 10 staff members, who were kept through the sale and were not furloughed.

The restaurant’s dining room reopened May 5 and is operating at 50% capacity.

Business slowly is returning to normal, and Eddy is settling into his role as owner and operator of the restaurant.

“We have been able to lean on the faithful clientele that Sorrento Italian Restaurant built and sustained over the past three decades, and we are very blessed to have been keeping busy during such a challenging time. It’s a testament to the legacy and hard work of Luciano and his family,” Eddy said.

“Our goal is to protect that, and to take care of what they have passed on to us.”

He said he and chef Nedal Mardini feel privileged “with the opportunity to write the next chapter.” 

 

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