A Long Island entrepreneur leads a growing restaurant concept

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A Long Island native is fueling the expansion of a Florida-based restaurant chain that will soon come to the area.

Steve Israel, no, not that Steve Israel, is the co-founder of Ford’s Garage, a growing burger and craft beer franchise that aims to give Long Island’s existing fleet of casual dining restaurants a wheel for their money.

Founded in 2012, Ford’s Garage got its start when Israel, a real estate developer and investor who grew up in Glen Cove, sought to fill a 4,800 square foot vacancy in one of his buildings on First Street in Fort Meyers, in Florida. He teamed up with restaurant industry veterans Daniel Kearns and Mike McGuigan and came up with a concept that combined automotive nostalgia with a tried-and-true casual restaurant menu.

Steve Israel

The partners began franchising the concept in 2015, and the chain now has 17 locations in Florida, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. The company has also entered into additional development agreements and plans to open eight to ten additional restaurants before the end of the year.

In addition to being a co-founder of the channel, Israel is also the developer for the New Jersey and Long Island region. He and his son Jake Israel plan to open three to five Ford’s Garage restaurants in Nassau and Suffolk counties over the next few years, with the first location due to open early next year in West Suffolk.

“Growing up here, I know Long Island needs a solid, fun concept that works,” Israel said. “Wherever we go, the reception has been phenomenal. It is first and foremost a family restaurant and Long Island is full of families.

Ford’s Garage entered into a licensing agreement with Ford Motor Company, allowing them to use the company’s iconic blue oval logo and other branding images. Each of its restaurants is designed to resemble a 1920s gas station and filled with Ford memorabilia, including vintage vehicles, light fixtures and gas pumps, as well as a Model T or Model A hanging from the above the central bar.

Israel says a lot of time is spent on music selections and interior and exterior lighting so the environment “knocks you upside down before you walk into the restaurant.” Continuing the theme, servers are dressed as mechanics, blue shop towels are used as napkins, and bathroom sinks are made from tires and fuel pump nozzles.

Besides burgers with buns branded with the Ford’s Garage logo, restaurants offer comfort food like homemade meatloaf, chicken wings and tenderloins, onion rings, and macaroni and cheese. The menu also features salads, grilled chicken, seafood and over 100 types of beer including 40 on tap, with a focus on local microbrews, varying by location.

The overall cost of opening a Ford’s Garage franchise ranges from approximately $1.46 million to $6.35 million, depending on size and location. The restaurants range in size from 6,500 square feet to approximately 9,000 square feet and have up to 250 seats. Each restaurant employs around 100 people.

Israel, which has homes in Florida and East Hampton, once owned the iconic 25-story tower known as One Times Square, where the famous ball drops on New Year’s Eve. It still has a portfolio of buildings for use joint in Manhattan and has interests in five East Coast marinas, including one in Sag Harbor. But lately, his passion is to develop the Ford’s Garage chain.

“The Ford Motor Company has a pretty rich history as one of America’s premier manufacturing companies, and that history translates into a pretty cool dining experience, too,” Israel says. “We’re proud of how far we’ve come and excited about where we’re going. With our many Ford-inspired design elements, top-notch service and delicious menu, Ford’s Garage is sure to become the popular dining choice in any neighborhood.

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