Columbia Restaurant sold
to family that operates it
By Susan P. Respess
Columbia Operating Companies
Inc. has bought the Columbia Res-
taurant, two gift shops and a bakery
for $2.4 million from the St. Augus-
tine Foundation Inc., a foundation
spokesman said yesterday.
Fred Cone, attorney for the foun-
dation, said the nonprofit group
sold the St. Augustine restaurant,
shops and parking lot on 2.5 acres
to the Gonzmart family, which runs
Columbia Operating Companies and
has operated and leased the restau-
rant since it opened in July 1983.
Cone said the sale was concluded
"The foundation is giving up some
of the accrued rent that is owed,"
said Cone of Jacksonville, but he
said it was not trying to make a
Richard Gonzmart, vice president
of Columbia Operating Companies
Inc. of Tampa, said yesterday the
foundation offered to sell the prop-
erty on St. Geotge Street at its 1983
development and purchase costs.
"It is a tremendous buy," he said.
"We know the land and buildings
are much more valuable today. We
can't go wrong. The town is grow-
The property includes the Colum-
bia Restaurant Gift Shop, a restau-
rant bakery and St. Augustine Art
Glass as well as some offices, he
The first Gonzmart restaurant
opened in 1905 in Tampa. There are
now Columbia restaurants in Tam-
pa, Harbor Island and Sarasota. The
foundation asked the family to ex-
pand to St. Augustine four years
ago and built the 24,000-square-foot
Spanish restaurant to the family's
specifications, Gonzmart said.
Cone said the family then leased
the restaurant for an amount equal
to 50 percent of its monthly profits.
Gonzmart said the family-owned
company plans to add about 10 new
restaurants in Florida during the
next three years. But he said those
plans do not include Jacksonville
because the company thinks that
Jacksonville residents can be served
by the St. Augustine restaurant.
"We are trying to grow very slow-
ly," he said. "We are negotiating for
a site in West Palm Beach." He de-
clined to name other potential loca-
tions for new restaurants.
The family company also proposes
to develop property it owns on St.
George Street in St. Augustine
across from the Columbia Restau-
rant into gifts and crafts shops, he