Retired New York City firefighter Michael Toussaint and his wife, Amanda, are bringing a new restaurant to the former Corner Bakery Café in Southpoint.
Toussaint said Tuesday he plans to open Fresh-Mex & Co. Urban Grill and Cantina, a fast-casual restaurant, at 7111 Bonneval Road.
The area’s two Corner Bakery Cafes closed in early December — at Southpoint and at Brooklyn Station on Riverside.
Spokesman Eric Davidson at Regency Centers Corp., which owns Brooklyn Station, said he could not identify the tenant in negotiation for that site but expects a lease soon.
Toussaint wants to open Fresh-Mex & Co. in Southpoint in early June. “This is our first in this brand,” he said, explaining that he has worked with partners on Rocco’s Tavern in California and on 277 in Tribeca in New York.
Fresh-Mex will be upscale fast-casual, he said, meaning customers will order at the counter and their food will be delivered on plates and with metal flatware, he said, not paper or plastic.
Knowing that the location in the Southpoint area draws heavily from area businesses and office workers with tight lunch breaks, he wants to serve customers within 10 minutes.
Hours will be 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily with a Sunday brunch. He expects to hire about 40 employees and said he is in the process of obtaining a liquor license for a full bar.
Menu items will include nachos, chips and queso, guacamole, shrimp-avocado egg rolls, fried yuca and fried plaintains, chili with jalapeno cornbread, tacos, burritos and health-conscious bowls and carnitas, as well as desserts.
Food will focus on freshness, including wild salmon, pasture-raised meats and local produce.
He said his wife is an expert in health and nutrition and has been working with people on lifestyle and diet for more than 12 years.
Toussaint said the space is being renovated, including the covered patio and the bar, and will seat 172 inside and out. He said the restaurant comprises about 4,300 square feet of interior space and 900 square feet on the patio.
“It’s a very big project,” he said.
A pending permit shows that Blue Ocean Construction will renovate space at a construction cost of $11,250, but Toussaint said that was the start of the permits. He did not have an estimate of the total project investment.
Toussaint said that as a former firefighter — he retired as a lieutenant — he moved his family to St. Johns County two years ago.
He said they were attracted to the area because of its expanding economy, quality of life and highly rated schools for their three children.
“I was exploring the neighborhood and was looking for an opportunity to fill a void,” he said. When Corner Bakery closed, “we jumped on it.”
This will be his first Fresh-Mex, and he hope to expand to three or four in the area.
Because Fresh-Mex is not a franchise, he explained that customers will not be paying “for a boardroom for executives.”
Toussaint said he served as a New York firefighter from 1991-2013, including 9/11. He said he was off duty and his company lost everyone at the World Trade Center.
“We were called in late that morning, and we were deployed down to the site for search-and-rescue,” he said by email.
“It was a tragic event and a difficult time for NYC.”
He said he spent the past two years creating a restaurant concept that will work in Jacksonville.
“And I hope this is it,” he said.
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