Don’t be surprised if you see a couple cousins dressed in lobster costumes waving to passersby in front of the newly opened Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls on Shore Drive in Virginia Beach soon.
While 5-year-old Cooper and 6-year-old Logan aren’t old enough to work in the family business just yet, they are part of the multigenerational endeavor owned by their parents and grandparents.
Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls, an Annapolis, Maryland-based franchise founded in 2014, will open its first Hampton Roads location Friday. The chain’s free-standing restaurant at 3273 Shore Drive is in the former Sugar Shack spot, which underwent a complete transformation of the 2,500-square-foot layout.
The fast-casual restaurant serves four different New England-style lobster rolls — classic, Connecticut, lobster BLT and lobster salad — all sourced from Maine lobster. The limited menu also includes clam chowder and lobster bisque and side choices of chips, coleslaw, and potato salad.
The Leonard family of Chesapeake — Deborah and husband Craig and their sons Wes and Colt — signed on as franchisees after falling in love with the brand five years ago. Plus, Deborah Leonard, who is originally from outside Boston, knows a good lobster roll when she tastes one.
“Every day, I’d want to have lunch at Mason’s,” she said.
Dan Beck, founder of Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls, said there is no better owner-operator partner in Hampton Roads than the Leonard family.
“Their track record speaks for itself,” Beck said.
The family is no stranger to the food industry. Their portfolio includes nine Rally’s restaurants in Hampton Roads.
Craig Leonard said he first honed his skills 30 years ago with McDonald’s.
“When I retired, I was the COO in Tokyo, Japan, running 3,800 restaurants,” he said.
Both Wes and Colt got their start in their parents’ restaurants when they were children. “Dad would pose the question on Saturdays and Sundays if we wanted to come to work with him,” Wes Leonard said. “We’d stand on a milk crate and hand bags out the window at McDonald’s.”
The brothers earned their college degrees with business in mind and worked at numerous chains throughout the U.S. Now, they are thrilled to enter their latest small business endeavor together.
“We’re really excited to offer a new cool place where people can come and enjoy themselves with great food and drinks,” Colt Leonard said.
And Cooper and Logan enjoy wearing their “management polos” complete with nametags alongside their parents and grandparents.
“I want them to grow up learning the lessons that our parents forced on us,” Wes Leonard said. “As a kid, you don’t appreciate what they did … They taught us valuable lessons: the value of a dollar, saving and hard work. We’re just making sure we instill those in our kids as well.”
The Leonards plan to open a second Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls next year on the strip on the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Seventh Street and want to expand into Hilltop, Greenbrier, and other areas of Hampton Roads when the time is right.