Ave Maria


First Vicky Bakery in Southwest Florida to Open in March

(Ave Maria, Florida) – February 27, 2024 – When Phong Ho moved with his mother and stepfather to Ave Maria, a master-planned community in Collier County, he never dreamed that 15 years later he would be the community’s largest restaurant owner and the first Southwest Florida franchisee of Vicky Bakery.

Franchisee owner, Phong Ho, stands outside his newest business, Vicky BakeryHo was working for Pulte Homes, an Ave Maria participating builder, when his stepfather suggested that the family move to the town. Living in Naples and knowing the community well, they went forward with the move. Shortly after, his stepfather, a career investment professional, suggested that he open a Tropical Smoothie Café in the Ave Maria Town Center.

“It was my dad’s idea, but I barely knew what a smoothie was, having only drank a few before I decided on it.  Tropical Smoothie Café ended up being the perfect choice as it offers robust food along with its smoothies,” recalled Ho, who was only 25 years old at the time.  Today, that novice restaurant operator still owns Tropical Smoothie, as well as OASIS The Kitchen Lounge next door, and has plans to open the first Vicky Bakery on the west coast of Florida.

Looking back, he believes buying into a well-established franchise was a great way to start in the industry. “I had a math degree from Rollins College in Orlando and no experience at all,” he said. “But I knew how to take what was given to me and make the best of it.”

In 2022, he opened with business partner, Michael Jaenvega, a restaurant that he says was a great fit for Ave Maria’s residents and visitors. “I found the right partner and created a concept where patrons feel like they are in paradise,” he explained about the popular lunch and dinner restaurant and bar that was recently named by the Naples Daily News as one of the top “New and Best Restaurants in Southwest Florida.” “After two years, we’re getting there and improving every day.”

That modest focus on perfectionism drives this entrepreneur to invest in businesses that match the needs and wants of his neighbors in town.  The missing piece, he believes, is the breakfast segment.  He plans to complete that puzzle in March with the opening of Vicky Bakery, a family-owned Cuban pastry shop founded in Miami in 1972. With more than 25 locations throughout Florida, Vicky enjoys a devoted following, a popularity Ho hopes to duplicate on the west coast.

When he began his search for a breakfast franchise, friends and neighbors kept mentioning Vicky. He looked them up, talked to more residents and went to Miami to meet the family owners.

Vicky Bakery menu items displayed on counter with patrons holding food products“When I talked to the family, bringing Vicky to Ave made sense,” he said. “They wanted to make sure I was committed, and the product is great. When I did my homework, I realized how many fans they have. One resident said to me, ‘I would die for a Vicky at Ave.’”

Ho adds that food is at the heart of the Ave Maria experience. “Having more options is important to people who live here.”

Phong describes the pastries as light and full of flavor and the company as well-run. He is hopeful for a successful opening that will lead to more store locations in areas like Naples, Fort Myers, and Sarasota.

He also plans to offer a robust catering business, delivering baked goods to schools, local businesses, clubhouses, events, and surrounding communities.

Mauricio Romero, CEO of Vicky Bakery, shares Ho’s excitement about the growth of the popular Cuban bakery. “We select our franchisees carefully in order to maintain the family brand and culture that has remained a part of Vicky since its founding,” said the 40-year restaurant franchise veteran who took the helm in June 2023. “We are excited to support Phong as he introduces Vicky to the residents of Ave Maria and the entire Southwest Florida community.”

The Ave Maria Vicky Bakery will be located at 5076 Annunciation Circle #102 Ave Maria, FL  34142 and is scheduled to officially open in late March with a staff of 20 to 25.


About Ave Maria

Ave Maria has been named a Top 20 Master Planned Community in the United States, 2015-2023 Community of the Year, the Top Selling Single-Family Home Community in Southwest Florida, a Blue Zones Certified Community, and its active adult community, Del Webb Naples, has been named a Top 20 Places to Retire. Located in southwest Florida, Ave Maria is a self-sustaining town including shopping and dining, employment opportunities, parks and recreation, and is zoned for all A-rated Collier County public schools.  At its build out, the town will include up to 11,000 residences, and 1.8 million square feet of retail, office, and business park uses in its 5,000 acres.  Ave Maria is located at the intersection of Oil Well and Camp Keais Roads in Eastern Collier County.  The main entrance, on Oil Well just west of Camp Keais, leads to the Town Center. Take I-75, exit 111, follow the signs east to Ave Maria, approximately 25 minutes. For more information, please visit  https://www.avemaria.com/ or call 239-352-3903.


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