Burger chain to take over former site of Starbucks in Mystic

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Mystic - Jake's Hamburgers, a rapidly growing chain of restaurants that began 19 years ago in Delaware, plans to open this spring in a Route 27 building that last housed a Starbucks outlet.

John Eucalitto, the president of Jake's Franchising LLC of Cheshire, said Tuesday that the visible location in front of the Hampton Inn & Suites, was part of the decision to open here.

The building is directly in front of motorists who stop for the traffic light on Route 27 as they exit the southbound lanes of Interstate 95 at Exit 90.

"We like the transient traffic there. That's part of the reason we like Mystic. We also look at how are competitors are doing. If they are doing well, we feel there is a piece of the market for us because we feel we do a better job," he said.

Located nearby are busy restaurants such as Five Guys Burger and Fries, McDonalds and Friendly's.

Eucalitto said his company also looks for buildings that have been restaurants. He said this saves a significant amount of money compared to constructing a building. He said franchisees have already taken over several other former Starbucks outlets and transformed them into Jake's locations.

He said Jake's, which bills itself as having the "Best Burgers Under the Bun" offers a diverse menu beginning with its "hand-pressed, never-frozen" single, double and triple burgers.

Other offerings include hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, salads, onion rings, french fries and fresh cooked potato chips served warm.

The chain's big seller, though, is its hand-dipped milk shakes. It offers not only traditional flavors such as vanilla, chocolate and strawberry but more exotic varieties such as orange cream, chocolate mint and strawberry banana. February's shake of the month is chocolate pudding.

"It's a substantial amount of our business," he said.

Jake's locations also offer online ordering.

Plans call for the restaurant to open in late April or early May. Eucalitto said the restaurant, which will have a drive-thru window, will undergo interior renovations to transform it into a Jake's location. He said the decor is throwback to the 1920s and '30s with wood paneling, vintage photographs, butcher block tables and brushed aluminum chairs.

The Mystic franchisee is Tom Sullivan of Branford, who Eucalitto said is looking to open other Jake's locations in Connecticut.

Jake's founder John Carter opened the first restaurant in Newark, Del., in 1991 and it was soon popular with students from the University of Delaware.

By 2002 there were four Jake's locations and franchising began. Then in 2008 with 12 locations, Eucalitto said Carter began looking for help with the franchising. Eucalitto said he and Bill Chemero had worked together at Edible Arrangements and were looking to open their own franchising company. They met with Carter and became partners.

There are now 16 Jake's restaurants, including two in Rocky Hill and East Windsor, with 25 more ready to open by the end of the year. Eucalitto said he would like to have franchise agreements for as many as 100 locations before the end of 2010.

Eucalitto said the company's plan is to keep growing.

"Our ultimate goal is to get to the 1,000-unit mark," he said.

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