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Better cafe, new rooftop experiences coming to Clearwater Main Library

A feasibility study is underway to determine the future of Clearwater Main Library’s first-floor café and rooftop terrace.

Library Director Jennifer Obermaier says the upgrades will be part of Phase I of Imagine Clearwater, a $55 million revitalization project the city hopes will reactivate its downtown waterfront and bluff, and spur economic development. The Clearwater City Council approved the study, which will cost just under $100,000, at its July 31 meeting.

The Main Library, the largest of the city’s five branches at 90,000 square feet, was built 15 years ago. “Back then, libraries were very different. They were very traditional,” Obermaier says. “The trend is, right now, and that’s the national trend, is to make things more interactive and move things around.”

For a little over a year, the library has focused on its four-floor Maker Studios. A different studio is featured on each floor -- Creation Studio for Arts & Design, Discovery Studio of Creative Learning, Innovation Studio of Technology & Business, and Heritage Studio of Community Memory. The purpose of the maker spaces is to provide library patrons with opportunities for hands-on learning and the use of advanced technology, including 3-D printers, green screens and video cameras, sewing machines, a laser engraver, scanners and more. The fourth-floor Heritage Studio is still under construction.

Now the café and rooftop terrace are the next areas “ready to be reactivated,” Obermaier says. Last November, city residents passed a referendum to permit modifications to the library. “Everything on the bluff or certain parts of the bluff has to go to referendum,” she adds. “Now we have the opportunity to rethink different areas of the library that aren’t well established.”

When the library was initially built, the rooftop served as a special events space for not only library events, but wedding receptions, banquets, fundraisers for various organizations and outside groups. There was even an event coordinator position designed for booking and managing that rooftop space. “But during the recession, that was one of the positions that was eliminated,” Obermaier says.

Since then, the rooftop terrace has been locked off from the public and only occasionally used for library programming, from Sunset on the Roof to various astronomy events.

“We’re using the space, but we’d like to use it in different ways and more often,” she says.

As for the café space downstairs, there are difficulties surrounding “restraints because they can only open when [the library is] open and there’s no external entrance,” Obermaier says.

She adds, “We had four vendors open in that space and they just couldn’t make a profit.”

For the past five years, the space has been utilized through a partnership with Pinellas County Schools. The school district uses the café as part of its on-the-job-training program for special needs students. “They’re very successful and they’re here during the school day as part of their school work,” she says.

Clearwater Library staff is working with architects Williamson Dacar Associates, Inc. on the study, which should be completed by December. 

The city council will ultimately decide on which option is best for these spaces, once the study is completed and the library presents possibilities to them.

“We’re hoping the architects will look at these spaces and say here’s one possibility, or another, or they’ll just suggest modifying a space for more programmatic activities or a lounging area to sit and read,” Obermaier says. “There are so many possibilities. I’m excited to see what they propose.”

Enterprising Latinas to graduate first class of childcare workers

Little Angels Wimauma, an early learning family childcare home that will accommodate 10 children in a South Shore community with few childcare options, is expected to open its doors August 30.

The home is the first of at least seven new childcare facilities in the area “that will create a critical mass of opportunity for children in the community to access quality early childhood education in the community where they live,” says Liz Gutierrez, Founder and CEO of Enterprising Latinas, a nonprofit organization working to empower low-income Hispanic woman in the Tampa Bay Area.

“We’re going to change the landscape of the community. We’re going to create opportunities for women,” she asserts. “We’re going to address a major challenge in the community, which is the lack of school readiness among children.”

Little Angels Wimauma’s owner, Jackie Brown, was part of a childcare class offered by Enterprising Latinas, which through its Opportunity Center is working to help the community by activating women. Brown’s staff will include a couple of part-time substitutes from her training class.

“I am doing my part as best I can to help families to realize dreams and goals,” says Brown, a Wimauma CDC member who grew up in the community. “It means everything to me because I live here. I work here. I’m advocating on the part of Wimauma every day.”

A ribbon cutting ceremony, which is open to the public, is slated for 4 p.m. on August 29th, at 5803 North St., Wimauma. It is followed by a 5 p.m. graduation and reception for the class of 30 that completed the Wimauma Cares training program. The graduation and reception will be at the Opportunity Center at 18240 U.S. Highway 301 S., Wimauma. Space is limited, so interested parties are asked to RSVP by emailing Sara Arias or calling 813-699-5811.

The celebration culminates a year-long endeavor enabled by financial support from Allegany Franciscan Ministries, the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County and Hillsborough County.

“They took a chance,” she says. “We are very grateful. Without this, we couldn’t have done this.”

While the class may appear to be a simple task to English-speaking individuals, it seemed to be an insurmountable challenge to some of the women who endured. “If English is not your first language, passing this course is no easy feat,” Gutierrez explains.

“They’ve been able to prove to themselves that they could do this,” she says.

Plans already are underway to open more childcare facilities, one of them at Peniel Baptist Church near Wimauma Elementary School. “We are working with them right now, so they can get the work done on the property,” Gutierrez says.

Development in the South Shore area of Hillsborough County is expected to increase the need for community-based childcare.

A waiting list of 70 for the next childcare class in South Shore is a testimony of the popularity of the class. Another 12 are waiting for a Tampa class. “They [the people from Tampa] heard about this and they’re working in lousy jobs and they want the training. They want us to do a Saturday course,” Gutierrez explains. “There’s a lot of interest. We’re going to do it.”


Inkwood Books gets ready to move to Tampa Heights, Tampa

Thanks to its new neighbor, Tampa Heights’ storied history just added another chapter -- endless chapters, actually. Inkwood Books, Tampa’s only independent book store for new books, is moving in to 1809 N. Tampa Street after more than 20 years at the corner of Armenia and Platt. It will be across the street from the Hall on Franklin, a restaurant collective set to open soon.

“We have loved our home, and we have gotten a lot of love here from the community,” says owner Stefani Beddingfield, who bought Inkwood in 2013. “But I think we are moving to a place where there is a passion for local things, where the love of local seems to be a little more viable and important to the people.”

Inkwood isn’t moving its inventory until January but will be holding events at the new site starting as early as September, when the store hosts author Leigh Bardugo, the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Six Crows, Crooked Kingdom and the Grisha Trilogy. 

With a bigger, more open space and a location in the heart of reinvigorated urban area, Inkwood is hoping to attract many more intriguing authors to Tampa, building the city’s literary reputation in the publishing world as a sought-after destination. Lindsay Pingel, the store’s recently designated Events Coordinator, will be in charge of enhancing Inkwood’s national standing, but won’t be ignoring the surrounding area, working to foster relationships within the city limits as well as outside of them.

“Lindsey wants to reach out to the community to establish better connections here, locally, taking authors into the schools for example,” Beddingfield says. 

As the store makes its physical transition, Inkwood will be revamping its online presence too, offering a new website and outputting its newsletter on Tuesdays and Fridays in a modified format. In fact, the store just released its first edition under Shelf Awareness with the title: “Change is good, Inkreaders.”

Tampa Bay Lightning Owner Jeff Vinik partners with Dreamit to promote urban tech in Tampa

Tampa could be poised to attract urban technology firms from around the globe as a result of a recent partnership between Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and the New York-based startup accelerator Dreamit.

The partnership will take advantage of the ongoing development efforts by Vinik's Strategic Property Partners to attract and incubate companies with technology solutions in the areas of real estate, infrastructure and urban living.

With SPP’s plans to invest $3 billion into the development of nine to 10 million square feet across nearly 55 acres in the next 10 years, the Tampa Bay area has a head start when it comes to becoming an urban tech magnet, Dreamit CEO and Managing Partner Avi Savar says.

 “That natural resource becomes kind of the chum in the water to attract startups from around the world that are investing their time, energy and attention to solving the challenges that are facing cities across the world,” he says.

According to a news release from Dreamit, record growth is occurring across the state and in the Tampa Bay area. Just last year, over 60,000 residents moved to the region -- emphasizing the need for urban technology when creating modern cities.

"As our city develops and prepares for a bright future, I am pleased to partner with Dreamit in this UrbanTech initiative," said Jeff Vinik in a news release. "I am confident we will identify and create avenues of success for startups dedicated to building and enriching cities."

As a business accelerator, Dreamit looks for companies with ideas that have already begun to be proven and are ready to progress beyond the startup phase. For its Tampa endeavor, Dreamit will be searching for businesses offering “anything that will help accelerate and innovate the city tomorrow,” Savar says.

The partnership with Vinik in Tampa creates a rare opportunity to build a totally new city with an emphasis on the latest technology in urban development.

“There are very few places in the world where you get to come in on the ground floor and help build a city,” Savar says.


Tampa Downtowner shows success in first 6 months

After celebrating the first six months of a partnership with Downtowner in April, the Tampa Downtown Partnership is confident in the ride service’s continued success.

“It has certainly met and exceeded what our performance expectations were,” says TDP spokeswoman Kelsy Van Camp. “Getting it started we knew it was going to fill a need, but we didn’t know quite how large that need was.”

The free ride service was launched toward the end of 2016 with the goal of enhancing first-mile/last-mile transportation for residents, workers and tourists in the downtown area. TDP entered into a two-year agreement with Downtowner to bring the idea to market and show off its potential in hopes of prompting further investment down the line.

According to TDP, by mid-April the Downtowner had served 86,146 passengers with 101,192 miles logged. The vehicles in Downtowner’s fleet are also 100 percent electric, meaning that the thousands of miles driven equates to 41 tons of carbon dioxide kept out of Tampa’s air.  

Van Camp says the two most popular pick-up and drop-off locations are the University of Tampa and the Marion Transit Center. The activity at UT goes to show that college-aged individuals are quick to take advantage of the convenience of these types of “on-demand” services,” she says.

Aside from TDP, key partners in the public-private funding of the service include Downtown Community Redevelopment Area, Channel District Community Redevelopment Area and the Florida Department of Transportation.

With the initial success witnessed in the first six months of service, Van Camp says she is confident the Downtowner will be able to attract additional funding in the future and continue to help meet first-mile/last-mile transportation needs.

“We’re hoping we can potentially expand the fleet first and then start looking to grow the service area,” she says.

For more information or to learn how to request a ride, visit Downtowner online.


ULI Summit slated for end of May in Tampa

At the 2017 Urban Land Institute Florida Summit, individuals connected to the state’s real estate and development fields will gather to discuss trends, network and learn from the experiences of colleagues.

The event, which runs from May 25 to 26 at the Tampa Marriot Waterside Hotel, is expected to bring together over 700 ULI members and non-members ranging from attorneys and architects to land use planners and public officials.

“All of whom come together to share thoughts, ideas and research with respect to creating better land use in the future,” says Jim Cloar, chair of ULI’s Tampa Bay District Council.

The summit begins with open registration and a networking reception on the evening of May 24 and will continue with a diverse range of programing throughout the day on May 25 and 26. Programming includes four general sessions, ten simultaneous sessions and optional offsite mobile tours.

Cloar says the sessions primarily cover topics that can be applied across the state, but one of the general sessions will specifically focus on the rapidly changing landscape of Tampa Bay through several key projects. Speakers on that panel, which takes place at 1:30 p.m. on May 25, include CEO of Strategic Property Partners James Nozar, CEO of Lakewood Ranch Rex Jensen and CEO of Wiregrass Ranch J.D. Porter.

“We try to make sure we have a variety of speakers,” Cloar says.

With no shortage of material to cover, the summit offers those in the real estate industry a way learn more about the latest trends and opportunities in one jam-packed weekend. One of the main advantages attendees have is the opportunity to learn from the completed projects of their associates.

“One of the things ULI has always emphasized is sharing your experiences with projects,” Cloar says. “ULI members have always been very good about sharing those lessons learned with their colleagues.”

It is also a great chance to meet new acquaintances and reconnect with old ones – maybe even do some business.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some deals done,” Cloar says.

For more information on the event or to register, visit ULI online.


Grab your food and stay to play concept coming to Seminole Heights, Tampa

Shuffleboard, a game that traces its lineage to 15th century England, was once associated mostly with aged retirees pushing oversized hockey pucks on harshly lit courts in Pinellas County.

Bocce ball conjures up its own images, thanks to movies like “Moonstruck,” in which middle-aged and older men of Italian descent roll a hard ball down an alley somewhere in Brooklyn or Queens.

These two casual sports, though centuries-old, are enjoying a revival of sorts, so much so that three Tampa entrepreneurs think they can cash in on their appeal at a new walk-up food and beer stand in Southeast Seminole Heights.

Ferrell Alvarez, Ty Rodriguez and Chon Nguyen plan to revamp the old Nebraska Mini-Mart, a former drive-through, quick-service store on Nebraska Avenue, just north of Osborne Avenue. Alvarez said the restaurant will feature fast, casual food along with craft beers and wine.

“The concept is fast-casual food where you walk up to get the food,” says Alvarez, who is partners with Rodriguez at the Rooster & the Till restaurant down the road.

“It will be the same quality as Rooster & the Till: sourced locally, doing everything fresh,” Alvarez says. “It will be global street food with emphasis on a great beer and wine selection.”

But the partners want customers to grab their food and stay. That’s where the shuffleboard and bocce ball come in.

Alvarez envisions leagues playing tournaments on nights and weekends. The 1.5-acre property will also have room for covered dining and a dog park. Special events like a July 4 pig roast will give consumers more reason to hang out. 

“It’s going to be a multiuse beer garden on steroids,” he says.

The owners are keeping the old Mini-Mart name because of its connection to the history of the surrounding neighborhood. The building will retain its mid-century architecture but with a steel roll-down door facing south. The west wall will be covered with reclaimed wood.

Alvarez says he had his eye on the corner for some time as a great spot for casual, walk-up fare. He had a loose design in mind that he firmed up with help from Junto Design Studio.

“They took our vision and ran with it and made it much better than I envisioned,” he says.

Other local businesses involved in the project include the Pep Rally Inc. creative studio and Trimar Construction.

The partners got the necessary zoning approval from Tampa City Council in December. They are now working with the city on permitting. Residents of the closely-knit neighborhood are eagerly anticipating the opening.

“What an improvement for this blighted area!” wrote Stan Lasater, President of the Southeast Seminole Heights Civic Association, in a neighborhood blog posting.

UNION72 opens in Wesley Chapel, plans second location a month later

Just four weeks after opening their barbecue restaurant, UNION72 in Wesley Chapel, owners Jeff Martin and Bharat Chhabria are already planning their second location.
 
"We are fortunate and blessed in that our business is already exceeding our expectations," Chhabria says. "We thank our loyal customers for that. We've had customers travel up to see us from as far south as Sarasota, so the thought of a second location came up rather quickly."
 
Martin, who also founded The Brass Tap, and Chhabria, a fellow restauranteur, opened UNION72 in mid-November at The Shops at Wiregrass in a 2,000-square-foot space located at 2000 Piazza Avenue, Suite 150. It's between Cantina Laredo and The Brass Tap.
 
The idea behind the restaurant is to create "an elevated barbecue experience," combining traditional barbecue techniques with modern culinary innovations. The menu emphasizes unique ingredients and fusions.
 
"The response has been extremely encouraging, and we have been very well received," Chhabria says. "A quick look at our Facebook reviews and Yelp reviews will show that 5-star reviews are the most common. Great feedback on both the food quality and service levels. Couldn't ask for more."
 
Yelp reviewer Sarah D., for example, says customers who try the restaurant won't be disappointed.
 
"If there is one thing that is hard to find in Tampa, it's great barbecue," she writes. "This new spot in wiregrass mall is just what the area needed. I love their long table with the site of their open kitchen. I think it's always great to see the staff of restaurants interact in the kitchen. While there we ordered the chopped brisket and pork and it was delish!!"
 
Prior to opening, Chhabria says the owners used social media -- Facebook and Instagram  -- to spread awareness of the restaurant. Now, word of mouth seems to be the strongest marketing tool.
 
"We've even spoken to customers at dinner that said they are here because their friends came in earlier in the day for lunch and loved the place. The same day," Chhabria says.
 
Although Chhabria says the pair can't disclose the exact locations they're looking at for their second restaurant because of ongoing negotiations, he explains that they've narrowed their sites to a couple of places in the greater Tampa Bay area.
 
" … we can say that these locations are based in strong communities like Wesley Chapel, which will allow us to participate as a local neighbor," he says, adding they'd like to be up and running with the second restaurant in 4-6 months and that it will be similar to the first location.
 
"We have something here that works, and our customers love it," he says. "We would like to keep our operating model the same -- high quality but different/innovative barbecue with superlative standards of service. We may learn a couple of things in the next few months that we can incorporate in the next location, but largely speaking, why fix something that's not broken?"

Ava plans second restaurant location at The Heights Public Market

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.

Nautical-inspired restaurant The Galley to open in St. Petersburg this month

Two hospitality professionals are banking on downtown St. Petersburg's growth as they open their new restaurant, The Galley, this month.
 
St. Pete natives Pete Boland and Ian Taylor have joined forces to create the nautical-inspired eatery and tavern at 27 Fourth St. across from Williams Park, the open-air post-office and Snell Arcade.
 
It's an area that is expected to change dramatically by 2018. Near the restaurant, the 400 Block and the ONE condo-hotel building are slated for development.
 
Boland doesn't disclose the pair's investment in the project, but he says "we are well-funded and in it for the long haul."
 
The restaurant and tavern is located in a two-story, 2,000-square-foot space that was most recently Reno Downtown Joint. Decades ago, the building served as a Howard Johnson hotel with an oversized kitchen, which is now where Chef Ian Carmichael will create high-quality food, Boland says. The menu will feature Grouper sandwiches, Cuban sandwiches, stone crabs, and desserts with fresh Florida fruit.
 
Boland and Taylor have made substantial renovations to the building that are largely cosmetic to create a nautical look and feel with the warmth of a local tavern. Boland says there's familial seating, a mural by Seacat Murals, 10 HDTVs for Sunday football and local games, and a projector screen for special events.
 
Nearby restaurants and bars include Fuego Lounge, Cask and Ale, and Ruby's Elixir. Boland says The Galley's locally-inspired gastropub with Beach Drive-quality cuisine and Central Avenue-style fun make it unique.
 
The target customer is locals and tourists of all ages, and Boland says he sees the restaurant as a place where locals can bring visiting friends and family.
 
So, what should patrons order on their first visit?
 
"The Grouper sandwich -- we want to serve this iconic item better than anywhere else on the peninsula," Boland says. "Or whatever special Chef Ian Carmichael has on the menu that day. He won't disappoint."
 
The target opening date for The Galley is mid-December, sometime before Christmas. The restaurant will create about 20 new jobs, and almost all the bar staff has been recruited. Back-of-house positions are currently being hired. To apply, email Carmichael at Ian.C@TheGalleyStPete.com.
 
For more information about The Galley, visit the restaurant on Facebook and Instagram.

New stores, pop-up shops open at Hyde Park Village in Tampa

Hyde Park Village is hoppin'.
 
With construction taking shape and new stores moving in, the last few months have been busy for the area, and it doesn't look like things are slowing down for the WS Development property.
 
On Oct. 25, Scout & Molly's, a national women's clothing, jewelry and accessories boutique, opened at 1603 W. Snow Circle. The 1,239-square-foot shop carries something for every woman, from young professionals to savvy seniors. Stylists are also available to help each customer find what's right for them.
 
Owner Linda Crawford says she wanted to open Tampa's first Scout & Molly's franchise because she was attracted to the brand's fashions and accessories, which allow every woman to create a look that suits her individual tastes.
 
In August, three new businesses opened in the Village: Suitsupply, vineyard vines and Goody Goody.
 
Suitsupply, a European men's brand known for their stylish suits in tailored fits, set up shop at 1525 W. Swann Ave. on Aug. 26.
 
Also on Aug. 26, vineyard vines, a preppy lifestyle clothing and accessory brand for men, women and children, opened at 1623 W. Snow Ave.
 
And Goody Goody, the iconic Tampa hamburger restaurant reinvented by Richard Gonzmart of the Columbia Restaurant Group, began welcoming diners on Aug. 23 at 1601 W. Swann Ave.
 
Permanent stores and restaurants aren't the only ones setting up shop. WS Development, a national retail development firm that began revitalizing the area in 2013, says temporary retailers are also part of its vision.

"Hyde Park Village is always looking for the unique specialty shop that offers a gift or snack or a pop of color to brighten our shoppers' experience," says Susan Martin, GM of the property. "That is why we started The Fling POP Up shop. This space allows the small business person to try out retail and bring their product to new customers."
 
Toffee to Go was the area's first pop-up shop last year, and it's returning for this year's holiday season. The treat shop, which is based in South Tampa, is scheduled to be open Nov. 18-Dec. 26. Martin says more details about this year's Toffee to Go pop-up shop will be released this week.
 
Florist Fire, based in Seminole Heights, first had a pop-up shop at 716 E. Village Circle in February. And Dark Cycle Clothing, an alternative T-shirt company, opened Sept. 23 at 1607 W. Snow Ave. Both have extended their terms at Hyde Park Village. Florist Fire will be open through June 2017, and Dark Cycle will have its shop through Dec. 31.
 
HICO is another pop-up shop at the Village. The Colombian swimwear and lingerie company opened at 1619 W. Snow Circle on Oct. 1 and will be open through Dec. 31.
 
"This is an exciting way to offer our shoppers fun and different items all the time," Martin says. 
 
And to get shoppers ready for the holiday season, Hyde Park Village is having its annual Enchanted Tree Lighting on Nov. 19, 5-9 p.m. The free, family-friendly event will include the annual tree lighting at 8 p.m., photos with Santa, live music by Late Night Brass, food and beer trucks, a kids' zone, face painting, balloon animals and more.

Seminole Heights bike shop reopens in new location on North Florida Avenue

Velo Champ Cycle Sport, which enjoyed six profitable years at 6112 N. Central Ave. in Tampa, has moved into a new location on busy North Florida Avenue in Seminole Heights.

Jordan Miller, who owns the business with his mom and dad, Doug and Sue Miller, says he was looking for more space and the chance to further enhance the concept of a specialty bike shop. 

“We do a lot of things other bike shops don’t do, like custom wheel building,” says Jordan at the new location, 4415 N. Florida Ave. “We use a more consultive approach with customers when it comes to customizing a bike or building a bike from scratch.”
 
Though Velo Champ is open for business, the family is still in the midst of interior renovations, with Jordan handling much of the labor and Doug, an architect, helping with design. The bike service area is complete, but Jordan, 34, is still working on the other half of the 2,700-square-foot shop where bicycles for sale will be displayed.
 
Doug collaborated with his son on designing customized light fixtures which still lay on the floor waiting to be mounted. Doug, a disabled Air Force veteran, says the family wants the modern work and sales space to advance the business’ ultimate goal of being a “destination” cycling center.

“When someone leaves here, they can say, ‘This is my bike and it’s special’,” Doug says.
 
The brick building, which the family is leasing, dates back to the late 1930s or early 1940s and is an example of an architectural style called federal modern, Doug says.
 
“There are some interesting details on the front that are masked by paint,” Doug says. “We’re going to fix it at some point to bring back some of the original details.”

Jordan Miller, who worked in motion pictures and imaging before opening a bicycle business, says he always thought Seminole Heights needed a shop like his. The residents who frequent the neighborhood’s hip restaurants, coffee shops and craft breweries share similar concerns with devotees to the culture of cycling. 

They both care about the environment and tend to support improvements in mass transit, along with walkable, bike-able streets.

“We share similar interests and a passion for the neighborhood,” Jordan says. “I definitely see there is an environmental concern here and a transportation concern that seems more prevalent with bicyclists.”
 
As part of that cultural crossover and support, Jordan says he intends to soon restart the Pub Bike Ride that was a monthly event and started at his bike shop on Central Avenue. The event regularly drew more than 100 cyclists.

“It’s a great way to show what the neighborhood is about,” he says.

Owner of Ybor City Wine Bar wants to bring wine culture to Seminole Heights

Jayme Kosar initially decided to retire after working 27 years in her family’s restaurant, Guido’s Italian Restaurant in Miami Beach.

But Kosar, 51, discovered she wasn’t quite ready to spend sultry South Florida afternoons playing shuffle board and canasta. A master sommelier, or wine expert, she decided to bring her passion to Tampa, opening the Ybor City Wine Bar in December 2012 with partner Michael Boehme.

Her mid-life career correction worked out so well that Kosar is expanding her Tampa-based business to the Seminole Heights neighborhood with a second wine bar in the Graham Building at 6703 N. Florida Ave. The grand opening, with a complimentary tasting table, is this week on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

“We’re looking to extend the culture of wine to Seminole Heights,” Kosar says. “Seminole Heights is up and coming; they’re certainly a food destination. I think a wine bar would be an excellent fit.”

Kosar dislikes terms like expert and connoisseur because they ring of snootiness. She wants the Seminole Heights Wine Bar to be a place where the novice can learn about wine and the wine culture.

“The only thing we’re pretentious about is we’re not pretentious,” she says.

The bar will have 200 different wines available by the glass or bottle, ranging in price from $5 to $50 a glass.

“We have every price point and every pallet covered,” she says.

For those relatively reasonable prices, the customer will get an education about the wine he or she is drinking. All the bar’s serving staff are sommeliers, Kosar says. They can tell stories about the heritage of the grape and histories of the families who have owned vineyards for many generations.

“They tell you about the winemaker and his family, how the grapes are grown,” she says. “We’re the whole thing. We don’t just pour you a glass of wine; we are the glass of wine.”

The wine bar will also stock 100 different types of bottled craft beers from around the world. Small plate food offerings can be ordered that complement the wine, including hummus, a cheese board, spinach and artichoke dip served with organic pita chips.

The Seminole Heights Wine Bar will be open from 4 p.m. until midnight this weekend. The complimentary tasting table will be from 6-9 p.m.

New independent drugstore, café coming to Seminole Heights in November

Seminole Heights will continue to build on its hip and unique style when a pharmacy soda shop opens in November.
 
Mortar & Pestle is under construction at 6308 and 6310 N. Florida Ave. One part of the property is new construction and the other part is renovation of an existing historic bungalow. When it's done, the 3,920-square-foot space will house an independent pharmacy and café.
 
Visitors will be able to have prescriptions filled and enjoy locally made sodas, espresso drinks, Florida craft beers, wines, desserts and small plates.
 
Mortar & Pestle is a family business, jointly owned by married couple Ujwal and Jessica Patel, and Ujwal's cousin, Badal Patel.
 
“We are very excited to bring this old-time pharmacy tradition to life in Seminole Heights,” Jessica Patel says. “We hope this will change the way people gather in the community.”
 
The owners were inspired by America's historic mom-and-pop drugstores. Patel says they hope to revive the quaint traditions of ice cream and soda jerks with a modern twist, and create a social hub.
 
According to the company, corner pharmacies were prevalent between the 1870s and 1950s, and their popularity peaked in the 1920s during Prohibition when many people traded alcohol for soda.
 
Seminole Heights hasn't had an independent drugstore since 2007 when Pharmacist Rose Ferlita closed Rose Drugs to focus on her role as a Hillsborough County Commissioner. She served on the Commission from 2006 to 2010.
 
Mortar & Pestle has received positive responses about its concept from the community on social media. Facebook user Kathleen Turner wrote, "What a welcome addition to the burgeoning business community in Seminole Heights! Cannot wait to spend some time there." And Facebook user Sally Finney commented, "Thank you so much for this! We r so excited you are coming!"
 
The business is hiring for a sous-chef, dessert chef, coffee roaster, baristas, servers, and beer and wine bartenders. Those interested can email info@mortarandpestlefl.com for more details.

Elevated barbecue restaurant UNION72 to open at The Shops at Wiregrass in November

A new restaurant opening at The Shops at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel is taking barbecue up a notch.

UNION72 plans to open in mid-November in a 2,000-square-foot space previously occupied by 100 Montaditos. It's located at 2000 Piazza Avenue, Suite 150, between Cantina Laredo and The Brass Tap.

Brass Tap founder Jeff Martin and fellow restaurateur Bharat Chhabria joined forces with Chef Geoff Zukosky to open UNION72. They declined to disclose their total investment in the restaurant.

"Wesley Chapel is a strong community with an affinity for innovative concepts," says Chhabria. "As an example, Martin's first Brass Tap is located in Wesley Chapel and is now a national chain."

The idea behind UNION72 was to create "an elevated barbecue experience," combining traditional barbecue techniques with modern culinary innovations, Chhabria says.

"Barbecue is inspiring because it is clean," he says. "With barbecue, it is difficult to hide the quality of the product and makes for a lean protein. It is also one of the faster-growing segments in the food industry today."
 
UNION72's menu emphasizes unique ingredients and fusions. There's "The Ribs," which are cooked Memphis-style, rubbed with a house-made dry rub and marinated overnight, then slow-cooked. For the more adventurous foodie, there are sandwiches like "The Conquistador," comprised of Spanish spiced slow-smoked pork, pulled and topped with chimichurri, caramelized onions and a fried egg.

The restaurant also offers house-made sauces, like white barbecue, sweet barbecue, smoked tomato barbecue, Brazilian barbecue and more.
 
Chhabria says the food represents worldwide inspiration, from American food trucks to Asian street vendors.
 
"The barbecue space has been lagging behind other concepts when it comes to adopting global flavors and spices," he explains. "Yet, meats are naturally suited to absorb flavors, rubs and seasonings. Such an elevated experience is already making its way across the country. UNION72 aims to be the first to launch the barbecue version in Tampa."
 
Restaurant hours will be Monday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. You can check out the menu online and follow the restaurant on Facebook.
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