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Grillmarks changes hands, not menu

The restaurant's name and staff will remain, but the owners, the Pappas family, move on, citing growth opportunities and issues with the city.

By CHRISTINA K. COSDON
Published June 11, 2005


LARGO - Come Monday, the popular Grillmarks restaurant will be under new ownership. But patrons may not see much change.

The new owner says he intends to keep the restaurant's name, menu, chef and about 40 employees. Only the management will change.

The sale became official Thursday, according to Ace Akimovski, who said he purchased the business and building at 607 N Clearwater-Largo Road for $1.6-million from George and Ginny Pappas and their son Nick.

Akimovski, 49, a native of Macedonia, has been in the restaurant business in Pinellas County for 16 years. He recently sold his newest restaurant, Ace's Patio, on Indian Rocks Beach. Before that, he owned and sold two Maria's Kitchen restaurants in Largo.

Akimovski also is the process of purchasing Cody's Original Roadhouse restaurant in Belleair Bluffs from George Pappas and his son, who opened it in 2003.

Five years ago, Nick Pappas transformed the Geo. Pappas Restaurant his parents had owned and operated for 26 years into a savvy, contemporary bistro specializing in fire-grilled steaks and market fresh seafood. It opened in the fall of 2000 and was an instant success.

When Akimovski showed interest in buying Grillmarks, Pappas, 31, said he felt it was a good time to sell.

"We knew he'd uphold the Grillmarks name," Pappas said. "It wasn't that we were looking to get out, it was that he (Akimovski) was looking to get in. And this is a step in our growth plan."

That plan includes selling Cody's and opening a second Grillmarks early next year in Oldsmar. The new restaurant will be a little larger than the original Grillmarks, Pappas said, but will have a similar menu.

"There's a lot of growth going on in Oldsmar, and we're real excited about moving there," he said. The new Grillmarks will be in a shopping plaza currently under construction at Tampa and Race Track roads.

In an e-mail sent Friday morning to members of the Clearwater-Largo Road Business Group, Pappas said farewell and indicated he had lost patience with the city's promises to clean up the Clearwater-Largo corridor, one of Largo's main redevelopment projects.

The e-mail took City Manager Steven Stanton by surprise.

"I'm disappointed," he said. "That really stings. I don't know what more the city could have done."

The city might be rallying now, Pappas said Friday. "I've had some issues with the city in the past with (its) promises and I was spending more time dealing with those issues than running my restaurant," he said. "But I feel that they've gotten their act together and are finally moving in the right direction."

Leaving the area, Pappas said, "was an emotional decision. We've been in the restaurant business here since 1974. But it was time for us to move on."

Earlier this year, George and Ginny Pappas sold their second Pappas Restaurant on Walsingham Road.

Times staff writer Shannon Tan contributed to this report.

[Last modified June 11, 2005, 00:25:17]


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