Updated: March 18, 2013 at 12:00 am
Larry Leith, founder and president of fast-casual restaurant Tokyo Joe’s, said Colorado Springs residents have been asking for years when his Greenwood Village-based chain would expand to the Pikes Peak region.
“We’ve had more emails from people from Colorado Springs over the 17 years that we’ve been in business than we can count,” Leith said.
Local residents now have their answer.
Tokyo Joe’s, which has two dozen locations in the Denver area, Boulder and Fort Collins, will open its first Springs restaurant in April at the Shops at Falcon Landing shopping center, in the former Wahoo Fish Tacos space at 7495 N. Academy Blvd.
The location will be the first of five in the Springs, Leith said. A second location will open after July 4 in the University Village Colorado retail center, northwest of Nevada Avenue and Garden of the Gods Road.
Leith said he’s negotiating terms for three more sites, but declined to say where they’ll be until the deals are finished.
Most Tokyo Joe’s restaurants stores are 2,500 to 3,000 square feet and employ 15 to 30 full- and part-time workers, he said.
Tokyo Joe’s bills itself as healthy Asian fare; its menu includes chicken, steak, salmon, tofu, noodle bowls, sushi and salads.
Both food and preparation focus on what Leith refers to as “nutritional integrity.” Sea foods are wild, proteins are natural and organics are used whenever possible; food is either grilled or steamed, not fried or prepared in “greasy woks,” he said.
A former professional skier, Leith said he was always attracted to the nutritional value of such foods.
“Most people in the fitness community, whether they’re bodybuilders or other type of athletes, this style of food is sort of the go-to style for most athletes,” he said.
But Leith said he also saw an opportunity to serve such food to mainstream audiences because it tastes good, too — “versus eating something that’s healthy that’s not very tasty,” he said. “(That’s) a little hard to do.”
Kevin Kratt, the developer of Shops at Falcon Landing and University Village Colorado, said he’s been courting Tokyo Joe’s for about a decade.
“He gets a ton of hits on his website,” Kratt said of Leith’s restaurant. “There’s a lot of people that follow him.”
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