August 13, 2015

A Florida SBDC Video Success Story: Rosati’s Pizza

Rosati’s Contact: Joe Wendling, Owner, Rosati’s Pizza, 15245 S. Tamiami Trail, Fort Myers, FL  33908.  Phone:  239.777.3990, email:

FSBDC Contact:  Amanda Stirn, Marketing Director, Florida SBDC at FGCU, Phone: 239.745.3706, email:

Fort Myers, Fla. – Meet Joe and Rhonda Wendling from Chicago who have called SW Florida home since 2013. Joe and his brother Pete, who is also part owner of the new restaurant, are lifetime entrepreneurs, and previously owned and operated a window manufacturing company in in the Chicago area. Once the Wendling’s settled in SW Florida, the entrepreneurial family realized something was missing from their family tradition, a true Chicago pizza.

The story of how the Wendling’s were introduced to Rosati is a heartwarming story. Their son Nick, had developed childhood leukemia at a very young age. Through the chemotherapy treatments, there was only one food they family could get him to eat, in fact he craved Rosati’s pizza. With hectic work schedules and multiple daily trips to the hospital during the week for their son to receive treatment, Rhonda said, “There was just no time to cook, we would end up having Rosati’s delivered practically every other day.”

Many years later and with their son having rebounded with a full recovery, the idea to open a pizza company came to mind, in fact from their son. Their son, now 22 expressed to his family how they really should consider opening a Rosati’s in Florida. Joe and Rhonda reached out to the Rosati family directly and the Rosati’s were amazed at the Wendling’s desire to open a store in Florida.

Joe and Rhonda met with Julio Estremera, a certified business consultant with the Florida SBDC in 2014 to review their business plan, review the details of the franchise, and develop a step-by-step checklist to follow in order to open a restaurant in Fort Myers. Said Joe, “Having that detailed list helped know where to start and how long it is going to take.”

In June of 2015, Rosati’s in Fort Myers officially opened. The Wendling’s have been busy since opening, even during the historically slow summer season. They also have added specialty items such as local craft beers to the bar menu and look forward to expanding this area over the next several months.