In the Know: Chipotle Mexican Grill finally coming to Naples

TIM ATEN
Chipotle burrito.

Chipotle burrito.

Chipotle Mexicn Grill's first area location will be front and center at Mercato in North Naples. If one drives into the center on Strada Place off U.S. 41, it will be the storefront on the righthand corner.

Photo by TIM ATEN // Buy this photo

Chipotle Mexicn Grill's first area location will be front and center at Mercato in North Naples. If one drives into the center on Strada Place off U.S. 41, it will be the storefront on the righthand corner.

Mercato in North Naples displays a banner on a streetside pole along Strada Place announcing that Chipotle Mexican Grill is coming soon.

Photo by TIM ATEN // Buy this photo

Mercato in North Naples displays a banner on a streetside pole along Strada Place announcing that Chipotle Mexican Grill is coming soon.

“Coming Soon Chipotle” is painted on a construction wall on an empty storefront near the entrance to Mercato and Books-A-Million. This will be the location for the area's first Chipotle Mexican Grill.

File

“Coming Soon Chipotle” is painted on a construction wall on an empty storefront near the entrance to Mercato and Books-A-Million. This will be the location for the area's first Chipotle Mexican Grill.

— Chipotle Mexican Grill is finally coming to the Naples area.

As signs have heralded for nearly two years now, Chipotle will open soon in Mercato, the upscale center near the corner of U.S. 41 North and Vanderbilt Beach Road in North Naples. Despite signs posted at Mercato, the popular chain did not have concrete plans or a signed contract to open one of its restaurants here when I checked on a reader's question in a column last October.

But, now, Chipotle is prepared to open as early as December, but probably not until the new year, said Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold.

"It should open before the end of the year, but it’s still far enough away that it could fall into next year," Arnold said.

Chipotle's first area location will be front and center at Mercato. If one drives into the center on Strada Place off U.S. 41, it will be the storefront on the righthand corner, said Kristin Lutgert Cartwright, a spokeswoman for Lutgert Cos., co-developer of Mercato.

Between the Mexican grill and Books-A-Million, cosmetic chain Ulta is opening a store at Mercato, as well, Cartwright said. Ulta Salon, Cosmetics & Fragrance Inc. operates stores throughout the U.S., including one at Coconut Point in Estero and 25 other Florida locations.

Chipotle does not franchise, so the Naples location will be corporate owned and operated. The company's locations, generally between about 2,000 and 2,500 square feet, really have no variation from one to the next, Arnold said.

"This restaurant will have the same menu as all of our other restaurants," he said. "And, like our other restaurants, it will share our overall commitment to making food with premium quality ingredients from more sustainable sources, including naturally raised meat, local and organic produce, and dairy that’s raised on pasture and without the use of added growth hormones."

Denver-based Chipotle Mexican Grill encourages the "fan-antics" of its die-hard patrons. The active fan base provides incredible word-of-mouth publicity for the gourmet burritos.

More than two years ago, a Naples group started a Facebook page called Southwest Floridians For Chipotle to lobby the company to open a location here. The nearest Chipotle to Naples is more than 100 miles away on U.S. 41 in Sarasota.

Although Southwest Floridians For Chipotle has 233 members, it has been surpassed by another Facebook page, FGCU needs a Chipotle, which has 302 members.

But now that Chipotle is coming, don't think for a minute that the days of petitioning the company are over. I found Facebook pages urging Chipotle to deliver, stay open 24 hours, or add a drive-thru window.

If only Chipotle delivered ... is a Facebook page with 25,884 fans. Another page, Chipotle would be epic if they had a delivery service, has 14,306 people who like the idea. I Want a Chipotle that Stays Open 24 Hrs and has a Drive-Through is liked by another 10,314 people.

Other communities have united in efforts to bring a Chipotle Mexican Grill to places such as Tallahassee, Augusta, Ga., Santa Rosa, Calif., Germantown, Md., and Louisiana. Maybe it's because Whenever I go to Chipotle I see someone I know, the title of a Facebook page with 6,323 fans; or Chipotle is heaven in tin foil, another page with 1,368 people behind it.

At any rate, the most bizarre love letter to the growing chain claims to be founded by "Some hungry guy that loves Chipotle!!" His Facebook page, I would take a bullet for free chipotle!!, has 170 people who like it.

Photo with no caption

Say Chuck E. Cheese?

Q: I have heard from several people that a Chuck E. Cheese is in the works for the old Linen 'n Things space at 41 and Immokalee. Can you provide any information?

— Kristi Prisco, Naples

A: The deal is far from final, if the kid-based pizza place is coming to the Granada Shoppes, located on the southeast corner of U.S. 41 North and Immokalee Road in North Naples. But the response is not exactly negative.

"We can't comment one way or another on it. Before the lease is signed, we really can't say," said Rod Castan of Courtelis Co., developer of the shopping center.

Folks at Texas-based CEC Entertainment Inc., the company that operates Chuck E. Cheese's, said the local project is in early design phases, but there's always a possibility that it will not make it through that phase.

"We don't even have a lease signed. It's not on the 2010 new unit opening schedule," a spokeswoman said.

The nearest area Chuck E. Cheese is in Fort Myers at 5020 S. Cleveland Ave., across U.S. 41 from Page Field airport.

___

Connect with Tim Aten at naplesnews.com/staff/tim_aten. E-mail questions with your name and city of residence to intheknow@naplesnews.com.

Find a complete archive of “In the Know” at naplesnews.com/intheknow.

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