Businessmen open burger shop in Viera after several setbacks

Restaurant was originally planned as BurgerIM franchise

General manager Cole Beyer, owner David Clark and chef Ben Greenleaf are eager to start serving burgers and other food at Island IX in Viera
General manager Cole Beyer, owner David Clark and chef Ben Greenleaf are eager to start serving burgers and other food at Island IX in Viera (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

VIERA, Fla. – It’s been a three-year slog, but David Clark is finally ready to introduce Viera to Island IX and its volcano-inspired burgers.

Starting Saturday, Island IX began serving to-go orders from a partial menu. It’s not the grand opening Clark envisioned when all this started back in 2018, but people will have a chance to try the food, according to News 6 partners Florida Today. If all goes well, excitement will build, and he and his team will be able to welcome guests for in-house dining by mid-September.

“We were going to be a BurgerIM,” Clark said of his original plans for the space in the Viera Colonnade Shops plaza near Jersey Mikes and Blaze Pizza. He and business partner Brett Paul signed up for a franchise of the fast-casual burger restaurant.

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At the time, Clark said, BurgerIM was the fastest-growing franchise in the country.

It was brought to California by Israeli Oren Loni and sold at least 1,550 franchises and collected $57.7 million in initial franchise fees from 2015 to July of 2019, according to a February story on FranchiseTimes.com. Only about 130 of those opened through 2018,  and Loni fled the country in November 2019.

California’s Department of Financial Protection and Innovation issued a desist and refrain order on Feb. 16., and said the burger franchise must offer rescission, meaning cancel contracts, to all franchisees and refund fees collected, according to the story.

“Everything looked legit on the service,” Clark said. Burgerim serves small burgers, bigger than sliders, but not as large as a standard burger. “We thought it was unique.”

At the time, Burger 21 was still open down the road, but Culver’s had yet to open. They felt like it was something the community would embrace.

Though they lost their $90,000 investment in Burgerim, Clark and Paul pushed forward with a new, independent concept.

Island IX specializes in craft burgers inspired by exotic places around the world, as well as seafood boils. Eventually, salads will be added to the menu, but Clark and his team want to get the basics right first and build on that.

A pharmaceutical salesman by profession, Clark gets excited when talking about the restaurant. He talks fast, firing off plans and projections.

“Our slogan is where friends are family,” he said.

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He wants to partner with neighboring businesses for family nights, beer runs, wine tastings, bark and brews.

He wants to support local charities on a rotating basis.

He envisions families bringing in their kids after soccer games in nearby Viera Regional Park. He wants to give teachers and first responders a 10% discount every day, not just on Tuesdays or Thursdays.

“We want to have our hearts in the right place,” he said. “I think this is going to work out.”

“I know this is going to work out,” chef Ben Greenleaf said. He and general manager Cole Beyer have been experimenting with a wood smoker, using different types of wood to add flavor to the burgers.

The burgers are named for and inspired by volcanos around the world. The Mt. Santorini burger features a spiced ground lamb patty and tzatziki. The mammoth Krakatoa “Krak” Burger is topped by Hawaiian slaw made with pineapple and mango, ghost pepper cheese and pulled bacon.

The burgers patties are made of ground chuck and short rib, so they’re juicy and flavorful, even when cooked well-done, Beyer said.

“I’ll admit it,” Greenleaf said, “I overcooked one the other day, and it was still good.”

Eventually, the menu will include seafood boils and salads. For now, it features four starters — Hawaiian slaw, fried avocado spears, jalapeno barbecue hog wings and sweet crispy barbecue ribs — and seven sandwiches. Mt. Etna is made with sweet Italian sausage, Mt. Kilimanjaro has a black bean patty and fried avocado, and Mt. Kilauea and Mt. Pelee feature fried chicken breasts.

Prices range from $5 for the slaw to $16 for the Mt. Santorini.

A few kids’ options and sides are available, too.

When the dining room opens, Island IX will serve craft beer and wine.

It’s been a struggle. The restaurant space in Viera is brand new, but the life-edge tables were custom built. The kitchen had to be outfitted, equipment bought.

Now Clark and his team are trying to hire enough people to fully open.

“We’re tenacious,” Greenleaf said. “We want to get open.”

He’s eager for people to try the Krakatoa. Beyer is excited about the fried avocado spears and the sweet crispy ribs.

Island IX is at 2348 Citadel Way, Suite 105, Viera. Call 321-305-5946 or visit island-ix.com for more information. The restaurant will open Saturday for takeout only. Hours will be 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4-7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday and Monday. Those hours are expected to expand as the restaurant gets up to full staffing and the dining room opens.


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