4 Rivers Smokehouse BBQ chain eyes expanding to Daytona. Clues point to One Daytona as a possible location.

DAYTONA BEACH — A popular Central Florida barbecue restaurant chain with a strong cult following of fans appears to be getting ready to expand to Daytona Beach.

The Winter Park-based 4 Rivers Smokehouse chain in July filed incorporation papers with the state for a new entity called "4 Rivers Smokehouse of Daytona LLC."

In addition, the chain recently began advertising to fill catering sales manager and kitchen manager positions in Daytona Beach.

While the company has not announced where its Daytona Beach location will be, a number of clues are pointing to the recently vacated Oklahoma Joe's Bar-B-Cue restaurant at One Daytona.

Chris Atwell, a sales manager with Glasstone Group who has been a regular customer at the 4 Rivers Smokehouse restaurants in the Orlando area, said he has heard from a number of people, including some tenants at One Daytona, that 4 Rivers founder John Rivers was seen at the former Oklahoma Joe's property.

Troy Renfrow, owner of MidiCi Italian Kitchen restaurants at One Daytona as well as in Kissimmee, said, "no comment," when asked if he had seen Rivers at the Oklahoma Joe's property, but acknowledged "He's a friend of a friend."

"I will tell you that they (4 Rivers) have been advertising on Indeed.com for a kitchen manager and catering positions," Renfrow said, adding, "I am hoping that it's One Daytona. That would be awesome. They've got a great following."

Gentry Baumline-Robinson, a spokeswoman for International Speedway Corp., the owner/developer of the One Daytona entertainment/retail/dining complex across the street from Daytona International Speedway, confirmed, "We have prospective tenants looking at a couple of spaces. I hope to have an announcement or two for you soon."

She declined to comment on whether 4 Rivers was one of those prospective tenants, but confirmed that the former Oklahoma Joe's is the subject of "active conversations."

Officials at 4R Restaurant Group LLC, the parent company of the 4 Rivers Smokehouse chain, did not immediately return a phone call requesting comment.

One Daytona is home to two hotels, several restaurants and shops and the Cobb Daytona Luxury Theatres movie house.

The complex, which welcomed its first tenant in December 2016 and has been gradually filling its storefront spaces since then, lost its first three tenants this year: Hy's Toggery, which closed in April, Oklahoma Joe's, which closed in May and most recently Kilwin's Chocolates, which closed earlier this month.

One Daytona has also welcomed new tenants, including Copperline Coffee, which opened in late July, and The Daytona Marriott Autograph Collection hotel which opened in April. Also set to open this fall are the first apartment units at the 282-unit Icon One Daytona luxury apartments just east of Cobb movie theater.

MidiCi owner Troy Renfrow said his restaurant is "doing fine," adding, "For me, it's not over concerning" to see some tenant turnover at One Daytona given the fact that it is still a relatively new center.

"You are definitely going to have some first ins and first outs as a new center matures," he said.

That said, he added that if One Daytona were to land 4 Rivers as a tenant, it would be a tremendous boost to the entire complex.

The 4 Rivers Smokehouse in Longwood, for example, typically draws long lines of customers, he said.

"It's an extremely well-run organization and it would bring a lot of customers to One Daytona, no question," Renfrow said of the 4 Rivers chain.

According to its website, 4 Rivers Smokehouse began in 2004 with the launch of founder John Rivers' "barbecue ministry," a cookout fundraiser he hosted to support a local family whose young daughter was battling cancer. As his ministry grew to also support local schools, churches and charitable organizations, he decided to open his first restaurant in Winter Park in 2009 after realizing "smoking thousands of pounds of meat out of a garage just wouldn't cut it anymore."

4 Rivers Smokehouse now has restaurants in Carrollwood, Coral Springs, downtown Orlando, East Orlando, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Kissimmee, Longwood, Orange Park, South Tampa, Tallahassee, Winter Garden and Winter Park. It also operates a food truck at Disney Springs.

Its name is a reference to both Rivers' family as well as the Biblical verse Genesis 2:10 which describes four rivers flowing from Eden.

The restaurant chain has gained local and national recognition, including appearances by Rivers of NBC and Fox morning television shows, and writeups in USA Today, Paula Deen Magazine, Food Magazine and Restaurant Business.

In addition to barbecue, the chain offers a wide selection of salads, "signature stackers," "homestyle sides" and desserts under its Sweet Shop brand.

"The barbecue is excellent," said Port Orange resident Chris Atwell, who described 4 Rivers Smokehouse as a "craft barbecue" chain. "They actually put thought into their flavor combinations. Their burnt ends and brisket are my favorites.

"But what sets them way apart from everybody else is their sides. Everything from Banana Fosters to collard greens, baked beans, fried okra, coleslaw (etc.). The sides they do are over the top."

Atwell's Facebook posting on Monday about 4 Rivers advertising to fill jobs in Daytona quickly drew more than 70 comments, including one from Volusia County Councilwoman Billie Wheeler who wrote, "This is such awesome news."

Mickey Melendez, general manager of The Daytona Marriott Autograph Collection hotel at One Daytona, which is located next door to the former Oklahoma Joe's along Victory Circle, said it would be "great news" if 4 Rivers were to move in.

"It would be great for everyone as more spaces fill as it will only attract more people to the One Daytona area," he wrote in a text message.