Joshua Hernandez, executive chef at Ava
, is about to get a lot busier.
In early 2017, Ava will open its second location at The Heights Public Market
, which is being developed by Tampa-based SoHo Capital
. The market will be located inside the redeveloped Armature Works building, a 70,000-square-foot structure that once served as a storage and maintenance facility for Tampa’s streetcars.
Among the group of Ava investors behind the expansion are Michael Stewart, who runs the successful restaurants 717
in Tampa and The Lure
in St. Petersburg, and Joe Maddon
, manager of the world champion Chicago Cubs
"We're super excited," Hernandez says. "When I found out that Chas (Bruck, a principle of the development company) and the folks at Soho Capital were interested in being a part, I was really pumped. I think it's a great opportunity to expand our business."
The menu at the new 440-square-foot Ava location will be a bit different from the original restaurant, which has been open for two years in South Tampa.
"The focus is going to be on pizza," Hernandez explains. "So, we'll have some of the favorites from Ava, and then there's going to be some pizzas that are only going to be available at The Heights location."
There will also be paninis that are exclusive to The Heights Public Market, as well as salads.
Hernandez says customers trying out the new restaurant for the first time should definitely order one of the new pizzas, although he's still working out the details of the pies that will be available and jokes that he's keeping people "in suspense for now."
"There might be pesto involved," he quips, "I'm not sure."
The ovens at both locations are made by Acunto
, which Hernandez says is the most respected oven producer in Naples, Italy. But the oven at The Heights will have a 140-centimeter floor, which is 10 centimeters larger than the oven floor at the original location and can accommodate more pizzas.
"I'm excited to make an offering to people who might not have been to Ava before," Hernandez says. "And I'm also hoping that having some exclusivity at The Heights will bring some of our loyal customers out to the market."
Hernandez says the new Ava location and The Heights Public Market are important for the Tampa Bay community.
"I think the whole, sort of, rejuvenation with the Riverwalk
is really exciting just kind of watching that part of town liven up," he explains. "Between Ulele
and the new coffee shop is over there -- The Foundation
-- and the brewery (Hidden Springs Ale Works
), it's kind of cool watching the neighborhood and community get going."
"I think it's very important not to rest on your laurels," he adds. "Ava's doing very well in SoHo. From our perspective, that's all the more reason to test the waters in another area."
And if Ava's second location proves to be a success, there could be future locations in the works.
"We are going to take it one step at a time," Hernandez says. "The talk is there if it goes well, if it's a model that's feasible, we definitely have our heads in that game."
"From my end, I'm kind of using it as a pilot to see how the pizzeria concept goes."
Other partners that have been announced at The Heights Public Market include: Ichicoro Ramen
, a mod casual authentic Ramen restaurant, serving soulful, delicious food and beverages; Union by Commune + Co
, a local coffee company that has a fleet of trikes sharing the company’s flagship iced coffee product, Pressure Brew, at area events; Tailored Twig
, a floral boutique that specializes in one-of-a-kind pieces for distinctive events; Chocolate Pi
, a bakery focusing on pastries and cakes made in the European tradition with American creativity; Fine and Dandy, a cocktail emporium focusing on package sales, craft cocktail kits and classes; and Steelbach Ranch, a boutique butcher with charcuterie and artisan cheeses.
Two other restaurants will be located at The Heights Public Market, including Steelbach, a modern eatery that uses the best meats from the in-house butcher in the market, and Atlantic Beer & Oyster
, an outdoor eatery that will showcase a rotation of East Coast, West Coast and Gulf Coast oysters, as well as fresh shrimp, smoked fish dip, its signature grouper sandwich, and local breweries.
The market will also feature an interactive kitchen, called Show + Tell, that will host educational cooking classes, corporate team-building activities and pop-up dinners in collaboration with market tenants.
The market has space for three more tenants and plans to announce them soon.