The Bahia Shriners will soon begin renovating a former restaurant in Apopka that will serve as the organization's new temple for members from six Central Florida counties.
The Shriners paid $1.625 million for 1.49 acres at 3101 E. SR 436, according to a deed recorded Oct. 3 in Seminole County. The purchase included the 8,229-square-foot building that was once a Ryans Family Steakhouse.
The seller was Consumer Connections Corp., an Apopka-based marketing research firm that now uses the building as its headquarters. The company, headed by president and founder Madelyn Sutphin, will lease the building back from the Shriners for four months, Shriners' board of trustee chairman Tom Lucas told GrowthSpotter.
Sutphin could not be reached for comment.
The Bahia Shriners sold their former Orlando headquarters at 2300 Pembrook Dr. in April. Grace Church bought the temple for $4.2 million and is currently renovating the 45,000-square-foot building.
Lucas said the Shriners' membership has slipped from 5,000 when the temple was built in 1992 to about 1,500 now. Bahia has jurisdiction over Shriners in Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Sumter and Volusia counties.
"All types of fraternities are dwindling," Lucas said. "It's not just the Shriners; it's all across the nation."
More and more of the money the fraternal organization raised through renting out space for weddings and other events was going to upkeep on the oversized former Orlando temple. The Shriners would prefer that money go to the 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children, which specialize in burn treatment, orthopedics, cleft lips and palates, and spinal cord injuries.
"We've still got our 22 hospitals we have to support," Lucas said, "but we have less people to support them."
Lucas said the group looked at more than 100 buildings before settling on the former restaurant. The membership had to approve the purchase before it could go forward.
"We just looked everywhere," he said. "That building was affordable and fit our needs. We weren't necessarily looking at Apopka."
Renovations on the building probably won't start before February 2017, Lucas said. The remodeled building will include about 4,000 square feet for event rentals.
Shriners temple members with ties to the construction industry will contribute to the remodeling plans, he said.
Lucas said he hopes the site, on busy SR 436, will raise the group's profile and boost membership.