Sushi Maki to Open First Downtown Fort Lauderdale Location at 200 E Las Olas

Jul 23, 2021, 12:47pm EDT

By Matthew Arrojas, South Florida Business Journal

A Miami-born sushi restaurant recently made its biggest investment to date outside of Miami-Dade.

Coral Gables-based Sushi Maki signed a lease for its first stand-alone eatery outside the county in early July, founder and CEO Abe Ng said. The upcoming Sushi Maki will occupy 2,500 square feet in Fort Lauderdale.

Ng said the restaurant will take over the space of the former Beehive Kitchen at 200 E. Las Olas Blvd., which closed in late 2020. That places Sushi Maki near other downtown eateries including Eddie V's Prime Seafood, Java & Jam and Sky Thai Sushi.

The new location, expected to open in October, marks a significant investment for Sushi Maki.

Until now, the company had only opened stand-alone restaurants in Miami-Dade County, although it had grab-and-go locations in Broward and Palm Beach counties through partnerships with Whole Foods Market and Nova Southeastern University.

"I've always thought that the Las Olas area was a business daytime destination," Ng said. "But there's so much residential now with condos and apartments, it feels a lot like Brickell now in many ways."

This new lease is a sign of what's to come for Sushi Maki, he added.

The company is in growth mode, Ng said, and he hopes to continue to expand throughout the tri-county region with new locations. However, he said there is not a set goal for how many new restaurants he'd like to open in the coming years, and the current priority is on the upcoming Fort Lauderdale eatery.

"Our intention is to do more. We're actively looking at more locations," Ng said. "We don't have a mandate to open up 'X' number of restaurants per year, so we can really evaluate the opportunity and walk away when it's too rich for us."

Mainly, Sushi Maki is looking for second-generation restaurant spaces, he said, meaning vacant retail spaces previously occupied by another restaurant. The company is looking for space both internally and in partnership with Jenny Gefen, director of retail services at Colliers International South Florida's Miami office.

Michael Carpenter, VP at Fort Lauderdale-based real estate company Stiles, represented the landlord in the lease deal.

The market for restaurant space in South Florida is red hot, thanks in large part to out-of-state investors and restaurant groups looking to expand into the region during the Covid-19 pandemic. Ng said that'll mean the company has to remain disciplined and patient when searching for real estate, as these outside investors are more likely to overbid for vacant space.

"It's challenging trying to compete with out-of-state people who find value where we wouldn't," he said. "However, these are really good problems and challenges to overcome, relative to what we had during the height of the pandemic."