CORAL SPRINGS, FL - When their Mediterranean fast-casual franchise opens later this month, Irving and Maria Rodriguez can’t wait to look up from the grill and hear their customers say: “Oh yes.”
As in, oh yes, this is great food.
For many years, the former New York City police officers heard people say the opposite – “oh no” – when they saw them coming to arrest them.
“It’ll be a nice change of pace,” he said.
After long careers of chasing bad guys, Irving and Maria are definitely ready for a change. They're set to start on a new path by serving gyros, feta fries, falafel bowls, Greek salad, and other Mediterranean delights at their new restaurant, Gyroville at 1750 North University Drive in Coral Springs.
The lifelong-New Yorker couple moved from the Bronx to Fort Lauderdale and later Coral Springs six years ago to get away from the cold and the big city hassles. They set out to open a business and considered a pizza restaurant and then a corner quick-stop store. They settled on a Greek-style restaurant after realizing there’s no “gyro” place in the area.
“That was it. That was our niche. It was what we wanted to do,” Irving said.
They searched the internet and came across Gyroville, a South Florida-based franchise with 10 stores and an emphasis on healthy, Mediterranean-style diet.
“We fell in love with it,” Maria said. “The food is amazing. It’s healthy. It’s delicious. You come here and get a quick-serve and authentic food.”
On the streets of New York City, the Rodriguez couple was well-known. Irving, 55, was part of the organized crime unit, charged with bringing down mobsters, big-time drug dealers, and other major criminals. Maria, 46, was a beat cop in Harlem, chasing down suspects by also earning the reputation as “mayor of Harlem” for knowing everyone as she walked the streets. “Even the drug dealers on the corners knew me,” she said.
In Coral Springs, the couple is starting over. There’s no deep community roots that can come in handy when opening a new business. And that’s ok.
“As police officers, you need a challenge. And if you’re not challenged, you’re not living,” Irving said.
For what they may lack in knowledge about the inner-workings of Coral Springs, they make up with their determination to succeed and understanding how to relate to people which comes from more than four decades of combined police experience in one of the world’s largest cities.
“We’re not afraid to engage and interact with everyone,” Maria said. “If there’s something you don’t like, we’ll make it right. It’s how we are. We were molded into it.”
Part of what they hope will set them apart from many other businesses is giving back. They intend to support local charities and be present at business events.
“Why not? If God put us on this path, why not help everyone we can?” Maria said.