Cocozza Group

Cocozza GroupCocozza Group rebrands itself solely for restaurant and retail construction.

By Kat Zeman

As the rent continues to increase for restaurant and retail space in posh locations throughout New York City, many independent business owners find themselves in a quandary. For some, it’s too expensive to operate in certain neighborhoods.

New York-based Cocozza Group, a construction management and general contracting services company, has been helping many business owners find solutions. “There are certain prime areas where rent is so high that our clients have to get creative to get in the locations they want to be in,” says Dan Cocozza, owner and managing director.

Cocozza Group specializes in the fast-paced world of restaurant and retail construction in New York City. Its expertise includes pre-construction services such as site analysis, design coordination and budgeting as well as  construction management, general contracting and consulting. This specialization allows the company to get involved at a project’s inception stage.

“We work hard to get involved early in the process,” Cocozza says. “The earlier that we can be involved, the closer to conception, the better and more successful the project will be. If we get in early, we can really work with our client as a partner and help them with site analysis and early budgeting through the designing process.” Cocozza Group box

Cocozza fell in love with retail and restaurant construction early in his career and founded the company in 2012 after hearing business owners lament about their lack of positive experiences with builders. His venture paid off. Cocozza Group has experienced substantial growth in the past few years.

Last year, the company tackled 13 projects and grossed roughly $7 million in sales. This year, Cocozza is targeting 15 to 20 projects and more than $10 million in sales. “It’s been a good and steady growth,” he says. “During our first four years, we increased sales every year. We are in the process of developing a marketing plan but we’ve been very fortunate because 100 percent of our business is referral.”

Although his company has worked on restaurant and retail projects since the start, it tackled other projects as well. Last year, Cocozza Group started to rebrand itself and shift its focus solely on restaurant and retail work. “That’s our niche,” Cocozza says. “This past year we spent an incredible amount of time, effort and energy developing our strategy and what direction we want going forward. I couldn’t be more excited.”

Getting Creative

The concept of two different businesses sharing one space is not new. In New York City, where space is limited and real estate expensive, it’s a creative solution that has been explored by many business owners in the past. “But before people were doing it intentionally,” Cocozza says. “Now people do it out of necessity. The need for it is different because of the market and the increasing rent.”

Cocozza Group has helped many of its clients develop concept-sharing solutions. It completed work on one such project in December and has two in the works. In all three cases, one tenant has developed multiple business concepts. “In each of these locations, the tenants originally were looking to build one entity,” Cocozza says.  

Completed in December, Bondi Sushi restaurant, a fast-casual dine-in and take-out establishment, shares space with NODA, a high-end sushi restaurant at 6 W. 28th St. in Manhattan. “The rent was more than the owner could support with just one concept,” Cocozza says. “So he developed a second concept.” 

Although the two establishments share space, the cost of utilities and a basement kitchen, each has a separate entrance. Bondi Sushi takes up roughly 700 square feet and caters to people who want their food fast. “The interior designer, Carpenter and Mason architectural design, created a really unique-looking feel to this small restaurant.” The restaurant was named after Bondi Beach, a crescent of sand off Sydney’s east shore. The restaurant was designed to capture a feeling of sunshine, calmness and simplicity.

NODA, a fancy and high-end omakase sushi restaurant, was designed with class in mind. Guests walk through a short hallway to enter a lounge area. “You can have cocktails before the dining experience, which is concealed behind a feature wall and a decorative curtain,” Cocozza says. “Then you enter a very unique and intimate room. It has a half-moon bar where Michelin-Star Chef Shigeyuki Tsunada from Japan prepares all the the food in front of you. It was an interesting project for us.”

Coffee and Cocktails

What started out as an idea for a coffee shop grew into a dual concept that includes a unique cocktail lounge at 49 W. 27th St. in Manhattan. Cocozza Group expected to complete the project in January.

“It’s a similar story,” Cocozza says. “The client wanted to open a coffee shop and found a unique space. But in order to make it work, he has a coffee shop in front and a hidden speakeasy cocktail lounge in the back.”

Patent Coffee and its neighbor, Patent Pending, are located in a historical building that used to be a hotel whose residents included inventor Nikola Tesla. “He developed hundreds of patents when he lived there,” Cocozza says. “That’s where the names come from.”

Director of Strategy Reed MacNaughton adds that “it’s a fun project from the design element and a lot of planning has gone into it. There’s not a lot of space, so we needed to use every single square inch.”

The 400-square-foot Patent Coffee should be a hit in the blossoming neighborhood, Cocozza says. “There’s a lot of development happening here and there is no artisanal coffee shop in the area,” he adds. Patent Pending, a swanky speakeasy, takes up roughly 1,000 square feet. Its design feature a lot of metals like steel and brass as well as old brick. The color scheme is dominated by dark colors and black. It also has a terracotta ceiling.

C'est la vie!

With their construction targeted to be complete in March, two French concepts will share ground floor space in a three-story building at 301 6th Avenue in Manhattan.

Jean Le Gourmand, a restaurant that specializes in French-style crepes, will share the cost of utilities and a basement kitchen with Kut NYC Kebab, a French kebab shop. “The client really wanted to have a creperie in the New York market,” Cocozza says. “There are other creperies in New York but Jean Le Gourmand has developed and patented a crepe machine. Typically, crepes made by hand take a few minutes. The machine makes it in about 20 to 30 seconds.”

A wall divides the space between the creperie and the kebab shop. “To the customer, the experience is two separate restaurants,” Cocozza says.

Early Bird

Cocozza Group prides itself being equipped to facilitate a full spectrum of services that include pre-construction site analysis, design coordination, budgeting, construction management, general contracting and consulting services. The company believes that its ability to get involved in the early stages of a project will save its clients money and headaches.

“Because clients sign leases before all design, engineering and budgeting aspects are worked out and construction can start, more often than not, they are already paying rent before they open their business, which increases the pressure on them enormously and depletes their operating funds,” Cocozza says.

If Cocozza Group gets involved early, the likelihood of a project coming in on time and budget is greatly increased, because most engineering and design issues can be solved ahead of time and not during the construction phase.

 

Based on Quality

Cocozza Group operates under the principles of honesty, integrity, collaboration and customer service. It stands firm in creating a business based on quality relationships with clients and the highest echelon of subcontractors. It sees its work as an extension of its team and believes that transparency, combined with precision, creates and harbors a culture of excellence. Its mission is to add value, become the industry model of integrity and balance quality and efficiency seamlessly. 

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