Opinion

By Tasting Apopka

Editor’s Note – Tasting Apopka is a local Facebook page dedicated to critiquing and promoting Apopka restaurants. In this op/ed, they challenge the notion that Apopka’s restaurant choices are limited because of the lack of a consistent weekday lunch crowd. We thank Tasting Apopka for allowing The Apopka Voice to publish its recent post. 

So I had an opportunity to be part of a discussion in regards to growing a community the right way and Apopka was brought up. It was stated that the reason behind the slow progression in restaurants seeking out Apopka is due to no market for a lunch crowd. Meaning because the majority of working-class Apopkans work outside of Apopka and therefore there is no lunch crowd to sustain a business. I hear that I get that and I even understand that, but there are several examples that buck that trend.

And since we are talking lunch crowds.

1. Chili’s East & West Apopka
2. Something Fishy
3. Chuck Wagon
4. Porkies
5. Bubbalou’s
6. Fancy Q Sushi
7. Tijuana Flats East & West
8. Victorio’s
9. The Catfish Place
10. Gators
11. Beef O’Brady’s
12. Froggers
13. Cafe Positano

The above 13 restaurants are just to name a few of eateries that have been in Apopka a long while or recent but have negated the notion of a lunch crowd is needed to succeed. Not to mention IHOP, Denny’s, Fuddruckers, Pizza 1905 and the Southern Deli.

So I visited a town very similar to Apopka in many ways and yet they are flourishing. See the comparison

Apopka is 34 square miles. This town is 11.
Both towns are near a major metropolitan city with Apopka being closer to Orlando than this other town by at least 20 minutes.
• Both towns were former farm communities.
• Both towns have had an influx of new housing developments (some say too many) with no road infrastructure to support the growth.
• Both towns have had a new toll road built with exits to and from this town.
• Apopka currently has two soon to be three major hotel brands, the other town had one but a second just opened recently.
• Both towns have overcrowded schools.
• The median income for Apopka is 60k. This other town’s median income is 87k.
• The population for Apopka is about 50k. The population for the other town is 21K (the population gap kind of averages out the median income)
• Both towns have a historic downtown area with small shops but not like Mount Dora.
• Both towns have way too many dollar stores.
• The other town doesn’t have as many fast-food restaurants as Apopka.
• Both towns struggled during the recession.
• Both towns are without a town center.

The other town, instead of creating a town center, decided to go with an area HUB. They decided to fix up their downtown area to renovate the dated look but keep its historical look. Once the city committed to their renovation plans and announced it, the movie theater opened, then Kohl’s, several retail stores, Cha ic-Fil-A, new supermarket, a new hotel, more restaurants and other businesses opened up too.

So their HUB is more like Winter Garden Village. From 12 to 3 in the afternoon this town in my opinion is dead. Yes you have your older crowds, your stay at home parents, work from home crowds and those just passing through that stop in for a bite to eat.

BUT AFTER 5PM The residents return home, they go to the movies, they shop and they go out to eat. So what they lack for lunch they make up for in dinner and of course the weekends. So the notion of the no lunch crowd deterrent or rather lack of a lunch crowd myth, in my opinion, doesn’t hold water. (My cousin Vinny)

I believe I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If you build it they will come.

I drove through downtown Ocoee yesterday and I was amazed at what they’ve done and how they renovated the streets, sidewalks, landscape fixed up there city hall and other areas and it really looks NICE from the last time i drove through, I noticed a small brewery has opened up, a new bbq spot and from my understanding there is more to come.

I believe Ocoee is on the right track, this other town (let’s call it Akpopa the doppelganger of Apopka) is also on the right track but invested in there town and the businesses showed up to plant a seed and invested into that same town. The people are happy they don’t have to drive out of town to spend money and they spend it locally. To me it just makes sense. I just see this same formula working elsewhere in like-manner cities like Apopka.

Why not Apopka?

But until the city puts out the commitment to change, announce the renovations and innovation plans that Apopka is open for business no one will ever know about it and we are doomed to repeat and allow people to think we have no vision and all we want is fast food.

Leave Zaxby’s alone. The city needs to hold a press conference about the new plans for Apopka, artist renderings, social media, and PUT THE WORD OUT that we are moving forward.

The reason I say this is near the hospital they were supposed to open a big box store or plaza by Marden Apartments. The owner is now saying the market isn’t looking good for this area and he’s not sure what he’s going to do with it now. I remember when Marden Apartments was announced before the hospital was built and the hope was that businesses will build around it.

I personally feel if they still build it it would be successful especially right off 414 and not to mention in and out.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I have lived in Apopka on and off since 1995 and now after retiring from a federal position in DC I’m back. The city does need a center similar to Winter Park. What I miss most about DC are the sole proprietorship restaurants each with their own specialty. Also entertainment for mature adults jazz and RB clubs good food and networking. I may be retired but I’m not dead and I’m not a theme park junkie. So let’s grow Apopka!

  2. Perhaps another factor would be, there are still many plant nurseries/greenhouses in Apopka and some only get 30 minutes for lunch and that makes it impossible to go anywhere for lunch.

  3. As someone who is in their 30’s with disposable income whom drives all over Central Florida as part of their job, Apopka is dated. It’s lack of community spaces and decrepit “historical” buildings do nothing to make residents want to longer in town. I would rather spend my time in Downtown Winter Garden or even Eatonville if I want to enjoy strolling amongst local businesses. I do have to say that Fancy Q Sushi is one of the few establishments I thoroughly recommend to anyone looking to dine in Apopka.

  4. I Wsh that there was more places in Apopka for shopping and dining but it seems to me that this city is only interested in developing the east side to town. When you drive from 429 connection rd down towards Main Street, it’s endless buy here pay here car lots, abandoned warehouse buildings, hotels that need serious renovations, homeless people and vacant land. There is no plans for Sunrail or a College in Apopka. This city does not need another fast food restaurant or dollar store, we want places like Olive Garden, Texas Roadhouse, Target, Five Guys, Whole Foods, Starbucks.

  5. My wife and I just moved to Apopka in one of the newly developed areas and coming from college Park we’re really disappointed with the lack of restaurants and activities in close vicinity. We’re a young couple and have disposable income that we would love to spend in our home town but constantly find ourselves traveling to Winter garden or into Orlando for the objectively better options. PLEASE grow an area like downtown Winter garden, we would love it!

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