Lawyer Abdul Arif buys Avivo Brick Oven Pizzeria at NewMarket Square

WICHITA — Abdul Arif swore he’d never do it again, but he’s getting back in the restaurant business.

Arif says he closed on a deal Wednesday to buy Avivo Brick Oven Pizzeria in NewMarket Square and plans to make some changes, though incrementally, and expand with more restaurants.

Years ago, the lawyer says, he had a couple of Indian restaurants “that I lost my shirt on.”

The difference now, he says, is his tenant at Sutton Place, Gerard Rodriguez of Anna Murdoc’s Cafe, is going to run Avivo in addition to having an ownership stake in it.

“We made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, just like the pizza mafia guys do,” Arif says jokingly.

He says Rodriguez went to culinary school and has a passion for food.

“I’m not passionate about food like these guys who go to culinary school,” Arif says. “You can’t get them to shut up.”

Tony Suellentrop, whose family started Avivo, says other demands prompted the sale.

“We have a lot going on,” he says.

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In the Sauce Brands looking to franchise Avivo Brick Oven Pizzeria

WICHITA — When Tony Suellentrop announced the opening of Avivo Brick Oven Pizzeria in NewMarket Square in 2005, he told Have You Heard? he expected to franchise the business. Now, it looks like that’s about to finally happen.

“This is probably longer than we thought,” says Suellentrop, who is director of brand management for Wichita-based In the Sauce Brands. That’s the franchisor for Gambino’s Pizza, Hero Deli and Huey’s Smokehouse BBQ.

There are 50 Gambino’s restaurants in five states, two Hero Delis and three Huey’s Smokehouses.

Those brands “took away some of our time, but now we’ve turned our focus back to Avivo, and we’re going to pursue this concept,” Suellentrop says.

“We think at this time that we are … ready to explore franchising because we think the return on investment is a good opportunity,” he says of Avivo.

He says business at the Avivo in NewMarket Square is “actually getting better each year.”

Suellentrop says he believes there’s investment money out there and that people are waiting for the right opportunities. He says his group is talking with several potential franchise groups in several areas.

So how close is a deal?

“That’s always the magic question,” Suellentrop says.

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