From Rexall Drugstore to Primetime Video, the northwest corner of Embarcadero del Mar and Trigo roads continues its 34-year evolution this month with a new restaurant: the Pita Pit.
Scheduled to open by the end of April, the new eatery’s location at 971 Embarcadero del Mar is currently undergoing construction and renovation. The new owners, who are renting the building space from Reality Executives Commercial, said they hope their piece of the Pita Pit franchise will succeed in Isla Vista by catering to health-conscious college students.
“We thought it was a great location – we love the area,” said Paul Berwin, who co-owns the restaurant with Peter Riggs. “We want to be a healthy alternative to burgers and fries and things like that.”
Marina Leos, head of special projects for the Pita Pit Corp., said the franchise specializes in sandwiches made from pita bread that are filled with a variety of ingredients like chicken, steak, tuna, seafood or vegetables.
“It’s all heated on grill. Each pita is handmade to order,” Leos said. “Nothing’s sitting around.”
She said Pita Pit is a fairly young company that targets college students in campus towns. The first Pita Pit location opened in Canada in 1995, but has since expanded to 65 locations in the United States and 120 locations across Canada.
According to the company’s website, new Pita Pit franchises have been opening at a rate of four per month.
Leos said the California market for Pita Pit has recently been the fastest growing. In the next month, other restaurants are scheduled to open in San Francisco, Chico and other northern California locations.
“We’ve been a hit,” Leos said. “We’re open until 3 a.m. on weeknights and 4 a.m. on weekends. The late hours are a good selling point with university students – they tend to have crazy hours.”
The Isla Vista Pita Pit will be the first location in the Santa Barbara area. There are two Pita Pit restaurants in Los Angeles – one in Westwood near the UCLA campus and one in Hermosa Beach.
Berwin and Riggs spent the last week attending franchise training at the Pita Pit headquarters in Ontario, Canada.
The I.V. location, which includes an outdoor seating area, will also allow customers to phone ahead, or fax in orders for takeout or delivery. Berwin said the restaurant will employ 12 to 15 people and that applications are currently posted on the restaurant’s door.
Riggs, who previously worked closely with several friends who own the Hermosa Beach Pita Pit, said the new restaurant will provide health food that Isla Vista currently lacks. Thus far, he said, the restaurant is on track for its late April opening, although the owners have not set a date.
“The city’s been great – construction has proceeded rather smoothly,” Riggs said. “If we keep on track, we shouldn’t have any problem meeting our deadlines.”
Ron Gleiberman, a manager at Silvergreens restaurant, which is located down the street from the Pita Pit, said he was unaware the new restaurant was moving in.
“Never heard of it,” Gleiberman said. “It doesn’t really bother us – our business is great.”
Freebirds restaurant, which is often crowded late into the night and early into the morning since it is open 24 hours a day, is located at the intersection of Embarcadero del Norte and Pardall Road.
Freebirds general manager Kevin Guerrero also said he did not know the Pita Pit was coming, but said it sounded like the kind of restaurant that would be popular.
“It will be interesting to see,” Guerrero said.