Andy's Frozen Custard seeks unique sign variance for first FL store on I-Drive

Missouri-based Andy's Frozen Custard is progressing with plans to build its first Central Florida location on the northern end of International Drive, but needs the city of Orlando to agree to a unique building design that incorporates ice cream on the roof. 

First reported here in late November 2016, multi-unit franchisee Ranchers Custard LLC had a vacant surface lot under contract last year for its market entry at 5381 International Dr., set between a Sonic Drive-In and Speedway fuel station. 

The 0.84-acre site is pad-ready with all of the parking, paving, stormwater and site improvements completed by the previous owner. An affiliate LLC of Ranchers Custard paid $850,000 in January for the property.

Ranchers Custard is now requesting a variance from the city to allow a projecting roof sign on its building, which will be a large fiberglass ice cream cone roughly six feet tall sticking out of the roof. 

Design-build contractor Hufft out of Missouri has petitioned on behalf of its client that visibility of the Andy's Frozen brand and building is critical, and the landscaping and location between two existing retailers requires this signage to be elevated to where it is visible. 

A monument sign on the site isn't conducive to the existing landscaping or limited space on the parcel, Hufft wrote in its justification to the city. 

In adapting to the small parcel, the Andy's Custard building will have little to no indoor seating, about 20 parking spaces outside, and a drive-thru lane that can accommodate eight cars deep.

They've integrated the sign into the building's architecture, and tailored to the "International Drive vibe and experience" in a way that's consistent with the city's International Drive Special Plan, and Orlando Growth Management Plan, the architect wrote.

The company concedes that a denial of the variance wouldn't necessarily derail the project, but would hamper the Andy's Frozen business model that's been successful in other markets. Hufft argues that the roof sign fits with the design goals of the tourism corridor. 

Harris Civil Engineers has been hired locally for the project, partnering with mechanical and electrical engineers Malone, Finkle, Eckhardt & Collins, Inc. out of Missouri, Mettemeyer Engineering on structural, and Orlando-based Innovations Design Group for landscape engineering. 

Most of the Andy's Frozen Custard locations are walk-up stores, though newer models have large glass-enclosed dining rooms. Ranchers Custard CEO Eric Reed told GrowthSpotter last November the Orlando site will be a hybrid model of 2,200 square feet with collapsible glass around a covered patio space. 

The project's total building and occupancy cost should approach $2 million without FF&E, he estimated. 

Reed's Ranchers Custard did not have any other properties in Central Florida in its development sights prior to this I-Drive site, but would like to have "another couple of stores open within 12 months of the first," Reed said. 

Founded in 1986 in Osage Beach, Missouri, Andy's Frozen Custard claims to be "the largest frozen custard-only" concept in the United States, featuring a variety of freshly made custard-based desserts. The company has more than 50 locations open or in development across nine states in the South and Southeast, not including Florida. 

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at bmoser@growthspotter.com, (407) 420-5685 or @bobmoser333. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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