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Gotta Get to Gecko’s! Today at 3 p.m.!

Hey, a new restaurant is opening up today at 3 p.m., on Hillview Street (not too far from the 5 o’clock club) in Southside Village– Gecko’s Grill and Pub. You may already know about this locally-based chain that-totally-does-not-feel-like-a-chain restaurant — they’ve got other Gecko’s down in the Landings, Bradenton, and other locations in and around Sarasota.

I love supporting businesses owned by locals and the two founders of Gecko’s are local boys from way back (one born and raised, the other nearly). If you go by today for their opening, tell ’em MC sent you!

If you want to know about the Gecko’s backstory, here’s an excerpt from a published piece I wrote a couple year’s back:

Gotta get to Gecko’s

Haven’t been to one of the four Gecko’s Grill & Pubs located throughout Sarasota and Bradenton? You don’t know what you’re missing. With four locations open seven days a week, chances are someone you know is already a Gecko’s fan and will be more than willing to introduce you to one of the fun, friendly restaurant/bars.

Gecko’s Grill & Pubs are owned by two men – two Mikes – Mike Gowan and Mike Quillen. They’ve known each other since they were 10 years old and in one form or another have been partners and friends ever since. They started out playing tennis together at Sarasota Bath & Racquet. While still in high school, they began their first entrepreneurial joint venture by setting up a valet service at The Summerhouse Restaurant on Siesta Key. From there, both went on tennis scholarships to what is now Manatee Community College. Though they pursued their bachelor degrees at different universities, they stayed in touch in the early years following college and eventually found their way back together in 1992 to establish the original Gecko’s located in The Landings in Sarasota.

That restaurant was such a success that in 1998 they opened another Gecko’s in the Twelve Oaks Plaza in Bradenton, followed in 2002 by another Bradenton location at Braden River Plaza. In 2006, they opened the most recent Gecko’s at Palmer Crossing at the intersection of Clark and Honore in Sarasota.

Fifteen years. Four Gecko’s Grill & Pubs. And, oh, yeah, two wives.

Legend has it that gecko lizards bring good luck and, judging from results, Gecko’s might also be blessed with a little bit of good luck in the romance department.

Many couples have met and fallen in love at Gecko’s – particularly the Gecko’s at The Landings. There have been engagement parties, bridal showers, even a wedding held at the original Gecko’s for a couple who met and fell in love there. And love doesn’t just spring up for the patrons of Gecko’s, it even happened there for one of its owners.

In 1993, Quillen was working the evening shift at the year-old Gecko’s, when one of his employees, Noelle, introduced him to her good friend, Mary who thought “he was cute.”

Mike remembers, “We hit it off instantly.” A first date was arranged and Mike planned a trip to Disneyworld – to woo not only Mary, but her two-year old daughter, Delanie. Smart guy.

His plan to woo both mother and daughter worked and two years later he proposed on bended knee. The couple married in 1996 and have another daughter, eight-year old Eliza.

The other Mike – Mike Gowan– didn’t meet his wife at Gecko’s, but at the Deep Six Lounge at Marina Jack’s where he was working. Tonya, who was still in college at the time, worked at the upstairs restaurant, and one day, as she was leaving work, noticed Gowan’s legs when he was standing at a pay phone, dressed in a pair of tennis shorts. She got half-way to her car and then turned around and went back to knock on the glass and wave a greeting to the man with the “fabulous legs.” He waved back, and the romance took off. By coincidence their first date was Valentine’s Day, 1985. Four years later Mike proposed – also on bended knee (they must make ‘em romantic at Gecko’s). They tied the knot a year later and now have a seven-year old boy, Michael.

Gecko’s is a “neighborhood place,” Tonya says, “And we take good care of our neighbors.” Mary agrees; “Our customers feel that they are going to know someone when they come here,” she says.

Another essential component to having happy customers is having happy employees. According to Gowan, both Mikes know what it takes to create a strong restaurant staff because they’ve been there themselves back in the day. “We’ve bussed and waited tables,” he says; “We’ve bartended; we’ve worked literally every position.”

Of course, that was awhile ago. Now, the two Mikes get to focus on overall operations and even growth. Now, Quillen says with a laugh, “We’re hiring our friend’s children.”

“It’s a fun business,” Gowan adds, and indeed, the two Mikes and their wives work hard to make it “fun” for their customers as well. Gecko’s is well-known for being abuzz with not only good food and drinks, but with activities that make for a fun outing for any person or group – whether coworkers, friends, singletons, or families.

In short, Gecko’s is a fun, friendly place to hang out, grab a leisurely dinner or a quick bite, and maybe even meet the love of your life.

Haven’t been there yet? You gotta get to Gecko’s!

Posted on April 8th, 2010Comments RSS Feed
16 Responses to Gotta Get to Gecko’s! Today at 3 p.m.!
  1. Ok MC, now I need the rest of the story. I recently heard that the person who originally opened Gecko’s in the Landings is now opening Boatyard Bar and Grill on Stickney Point Road where Coaster’s was formally located. I will standby for your update.

  2. I haven’t heard about that, Paul. But thanks for letting me know. I’m on the prowl for new places to hit during April — my birthday month! I also think they recently redid a bar on Tuttle Avenue/Bee Ridge? Rusty Hook Tavern I think it is. Okay, I’ll check out the Coaster’s-turned-Boatyard and report back on this site with an update when I know more. Thanks for reading the blog and thanks for the heads up. MC

  3. Great homemade potato chips at Geckos too MC as you know….My birthday is in April too.Give Libbys a try as they have excellent food and a nice atmosphere.Shakespeare’s Pub has great beers on tap and great burgers so there is a start.Have fun.

  4. John W. Perkins
    April 8, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    Well, somebody has got to say it, “Bon apetite”.

  5. Thanks for the scoop, MC. I’ve been playing trivia at the Bradenton Gecko’s for more than a year, so I’m looking forward to checking out the new location. I love to support locally owned businesses, too. My new blog focuses on sales and events at Sarasota-area shops. Let me know what you think. Thanks!


  6. Thanks for the tips Steve!


  8. Kendra, I like your blog site! Very cool information. Thanks for sharing that. Do you have an RSS feed? I didn’t see it — maybe I missed it?

  9. I have a fun month every month MC.:-)Mine is the 19th when is yours?I only ask as JWP wants to send you something.I believe he has one in April too.

  10. Mike Gowan and Mike Quillen are the ORIGINAL owners and founders of Gecko’s Grill & Pubs. Established in 1992 and going strong. Brian Jantzen became operating partner with the Mikes in 2002 and oversees 4 of the 5 locations. Check out our website Happy Birthday to all. See you at Gecko’s!

  11. Hey, thanks for visiting the site, Tonya! And for clarifying … and most of all for the sweet birthday wishes to all of us! Okay, I see we’re all going to have to meet up at Gecko’s to celebrate!

  12. Okay
    geckos it is!!!!
    Time and date MC!!!!

  13. Okay MC..the list will be JWP,Dan the man,you and me..NOOO Snaps..or any of his other alias names…I’ll buy the 5th round:-)

  14. Now, that’s not nice, Steve!! If I ever do get together with readers (which I hope to do as soon as I can get my next book finished — for a party!), the EB will have to allow even those Snappy kind of people …. 😉

  15. Fine
    I’m out!!!!
    I will ask for personal book signing!
    Can easily hold conversation with noted
    author without any difficulty
    your loss
    See you at the next State Fair

  16. Bye Snaps ………..have some funnel cake for me….Now MC let’s party soon..

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