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Ford's Garage restaurant acquires Rowdies Den, plans summer 2017 opening

Ford's Garage, a restaurant known for its old-school service station theme, has acquired the space previously occupied by the Rowdies Den in downtown St. Petersburg, which closed Sunday.
 
The new restaurant will open in the summer of 2017 in the location at the corner of First Avenue and Second Street. It plans to continue to be the official gathering spot for fans of the Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer team.
 
Ford's Garage was established in 2012 in Ft. Myers and has expanded to Cape Coral, Estero and Brandon. Each gourmet burger bar looks similar inside and out, with a 1920s service station/prohibition style. The new St. Pete location is one of several that the company has in the works.
 
"The area itself, just knowing the energy that's thriving there, has been on the radar for at least a year," Tara Matheny, director of Business Development for 23 Restaurant Services, the parent company of Ford's Garage and Yeoman's Cask & Lion in downtown Tampa, says of St. Pete.
 
She says the location of the restaurant space is appealing because it's right in the middle of downtown, which has a unique vibe.
 
"It just fits with that energy that’s going on in downtown St. Pete," she says.
 
Other up-and-coming Ford's Garage locations include Wesley Chapel, next to Tampa Premium Outlets, which is projected to open in February; Westchase/Citrus Park, at Sheldon Road and Linebaugh Avenue, which is expected to open in March; Clearwater, close to Countryside Mall, which is projected to open in April; and Dearborn, Mich., which is expected to open at the end of May or the beginning of June.
 
Matheny says the entire company is especially looking forward to the St. Pete location though because of its potential for success in such a lively community.
 
"It's really exciting for all of us," she says.

Atlantic Beer & Oyster to open at The Heights in Tampa in 2017

Visitors to The Heights, a 43-acre mixed-use development in Tampa opening next year, will have a place to experience fresh seafood.
 
Atlantic Beer & Oyster, an outdoor eatery, will open with The Heights in early spring.
 
The restaurant will sit along the Tampa Riverwalk under a 165-foot water tower, a tribute to a tower that once sat on the property. The new, similar tower came from a field in Bartow and has been renovated.
 
Atlantic Beer & Oyster will feature a rotation of East coast, West coast and Gulf coast oysters, as well as fresh shrimp, smoked fish dip and its signature grouper sandwich. It will also showcase local breweries, like Cigar City Brewing and Big Storm Brewing.
 
The Heights is located between North Boulevard and North Tampa Street, parallel to the Hillsborough River and just north of Water Works Park. The centerpiece of the project is the Armature Works building, a 73,444-square-foot former storage and maintenance facility for Tampa's streetcars.
 
The first phase of The Heights project is scheduled to open in the spring of 2017. This includes the Heights Public Market; The Gathering and The Theater, which are two event spaces; Atlantic Beer & Oyster; Steelbach restaurant; a shared work space; and a rooftop social area. SoHo Capital, the developer of the project, is now taking reservations for the event spaces.
 
Future expansion plans for the project include a mix of residential units for sale and for rent, an office village, additional eateries, ground floor retail, a hotel, on-street and structured parking, and an expansion of the Tampa Riverwalk.
 
The Atlantic Beer & Oyster concept is part of the BE-1 Concepts restaurant group, which is headquartered in Tampa and also owns Boca Kitchen, Bar & MarketCiro's Speakeasy & Supper Club, and Park Social. Kevin Enderle, the company's president, says he's looking forward to serving as one of The Heights' first restaurants.
 
"The Heights project provided us an exciting opportunity to showcase our Atlantic Beer & Oyster concept alongside the Tampa Riverwalk and the Hillsborough River," Enderle says. "This unique location will allow visitors to enjoy the freshest seafood at one of the most beautiful settings in downtown Tampa."
 
Atlantic Beer & Oyster also has a location in Winter Park and will open another in Sarasota in early 2017.

Fuzzy's Taco Shop to open in Temple Terrace in January

Temple Terrace and the USF area will soon have a new option when it comes to Tex-Mex food.
 
Fuzzy's Taco Shop will be opening at 5621 E. Fowler Ave. in the former Clubhouse Sports Grill at Terrace Walk Plaza after the New Year.
 
"Most likely it'll open the first week of January," says Tampa-native Ian Lieberman, who owns the location with his brother, Adam Lieberman, and Adam's wife, J-Ray Lieberman.
 
The trio opened their first Fuzzy's franchise in Brandon in February, which Ian says has received a favorable response from the community.
 
He says he thinks that's because Fuzzy's takes a different view on Tex-Mex from other similar-style restaurants, like Chipotle, Qudoba, Tiajuana Flats or Taco Bus. He calls Fuzzy's the next generation of fast casual, offering food made from scratch and a full liquor bar.
 
"It all starts with the food," he says. "But beyond that, I think that the restaurant business is more competitive today than it's ever been. If you're not showing an attention to detail for the things that customers actually want, then you're not creating that experience."
 
"That experience" is a focus on great food, great service, and a great atmosphere.
 
"You have to have all three," Lieberman says.
 
Fuzzy's Taco Shop originated in Ft. Worth, Texas, in 2001 with a fast-casual concept. Patrons order at the counter and retrieve their food shortly afterward. But Fuzzy's locations in the Tampa Bay area also offer full-service dining, Ian said.
 
The trio is investing between $750,000 and $1 million in the Temple Terrace/USF location, which will feature a large, garden-style patio with truck-bed seating, large communal style tables, a live music stage for local singers and DJs, 16 beers on tap, a full liquor bar with six barrels of signature frozen cocktails, and countless margarita flavors.
 
They're hoping to attract students, business people, and local families. Ian points to the University of South Florida, Moffitt Cancer Center, Telecom Park and young families moving to Temple Terrace as reasons why they chose to open a location in the area.
 
"I think that all of the writing is on the wall for a good period of growth in the next 20 years," he says.
 
In fact, Ian says Temple Terrace has been on their radar for more than two years because it has low crime, a high percentage of families, and is heavily trafficked by USF.
 
"Before we even signed our documents, we were already working on this location," he says.
 
And Ian says Fuzzy's plans to give back to the area, partnering with local non-profits.
 
"Us being local, we put a tremendous amount of involvement in the community as well," he says. "It's important to give back."
 
Next, the trio has their sights set on other future Fuzzy's locations in the Tampa Bay area. Ian says they have the rights to build franchises in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties, and they have at least five franchises currently in the works. They plan to open the next one in Wesley Chapel in 2018.
 
"We just love making tacos and selling cold beer," Ian says. "We're pretty excited about this stuff."
 
In addition to tacos, the Temple Terrace/USF Fuzzy's location will offer a wide array of handmade enchiladas, salads, nachos, jumbo burritos and quesadillas. Tacos start at $2.19 ($1.59 on Tuesday), jumbo burritos are $6-$8, and dinner plates range from $6-$11 for the most expensive item in the restaurant. There will also be a Munchkin’ Mondays, where kids can eat for free.

For more information, visit Fuzzy's on Facebook, Twitter or 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.

Park Tower in downtown Tampa sells for nearly $80 million

A downtown Tampa high rise has changed ownership.
 
City Office REIT, Feldman Equities and Tower Realty Partners have joined to buy the 36-story Park Tower at 400 N. Tampa St. from Sterling Equities and joint owner PT Associates for $79.95 million. Colliers International Tampa Bay brokered the sale.
 
The 475,000-square-foot building is 86 percent leased, and anchor tenants include BB&T, United States Department of Justice – US Attorney’s Office, Level 3 Communications and Lykes Insurance.
 
The building was Tampa's first high rise, according to Sterling Equities. It was built in 1973 and overlooks the Hillsborough River, the Tampa Riverwalk and Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.
 
Sterling Equities bought the property in 2006 from Colonial Properties Trust. Since then, Sterling Equities has invested $5.8 million in capital improvements into Park Tower to modernize common areas, upgrade electrical and lighting systems, and add improved finishes. The new owners plan to continue modernizing the building.
 
"Park Tower is at the intersection of 'Main and Main' in downtown Tampa," says Larry Feldman, CEO of Feldman Equities. "The opportunity to bring this building from the 1970s to the 2020s was too good to pass up."
 
The three new owners also manage other local properties. City Center in downtown St. Petersburg is a joint venture with City Office REIT and Tower Realty Partners. Feldman Equities and Tower Realty Partners are JV partners on Wells Fargo Center in downtown Tampa, as well as the Morgan Stanley Tower and First Central Tower in downtown St Pete.
 
Park Tower also offers views of the downtown Tampa skyline, which could be changing in the next few years. Last month, Tampa's Hillsborough River Realty Company applied for a mixed-use development rezoning from the City of Tampa for Lafayette Place, three high rises totaling 1.7 million gross square feet on the west side of Hillsborough River just a block east of the University of Tampa.

3-building high-rise project seeks approval in downtown Tampa

Downtown Tampa's landscape could soon be changing.
 
Hillsborough River Realty Company, based in Tampa, has applied for a mixed-use development rezoning from the City of Tampa so it can build three high rises totaling 1.7 million gross square feet on the west side of Hillsborough River just a block east of the University of Tampa.
 
The development is called Lafayette Place in honor of the Lafayette Street Bridge, which is now the Kennedy Boulevard Bridge.
 
The plan calls for a blend of residential, hotel, office and retail space built on three parcels totaling six acres and owned by HRRC.
 
Two of the parcels are located on Kennedy Boulevard. Lafayette Tower, which includes office, hotel and retail space, would have 355 linear feet of Hillsborough River frontage. Behind it, Lafayette Parkview would include high-end residential homes, retail and parking. Parker Street would separate these two buildings, and a sky bridge would connect them.
 
The third parcel is located in the nearby Grand Central District and would be the site of Lafayette Central, which would include high-end residences, retail and parking.
 
Lafayette Place could also expand the Tampa Riverwalk to the west bank of the Hillsborough River.
 
According to HRRC, Lafayette Place would attract new companies, residents and visitors to downtown Tampa's waterfront.
 
“Lafayette Place extends downtown Tampa to the west side of the Hillsborough River and adds a new and vibrant energy to one of Tampa's most historic neighborhoods," says John N. LaRocca, HRRC's senior VP. "Lafayette Place offers the tools necessary to advance downtown Tampa’s economic prosperity and create a true live, work, play environment.”
 
The project is designed in a way that allows for development phasing. HRRC says it expects to get approval from the Tampa City Council in March 2017, and then begin more detailed design work, pricing and assessment of the marketplace for timing of certain phases of the development.
 
Then, thorough plans would be submitted for review and permitting through the City of Tampa. The company says it's considering Lafayette Central as the first phase of the project, but construction would not begin before the end of 2018.
 
According to the company, cost estimates will be calculated once the city's zoning board approves the development. 

How you can participate in Tampa's award-winning free tree program

If your home could use some protection from the sun or your neighborhood could use more character, the City of Tampa's Tree-mendous Tampa Free Tree Program is available to help.
 
The program was established nearly 20 years ago by the city's Parks and Recreation Department with the goal of improving neighborhoods and Tampa's environment. Over the last three years, the program has planted about 3,000 trees in the rights-of-way in front of or on the side yard of residential properties.
 
Earlier this month, the Tree-mendous program was recognized along with the department's Stay & Play Program by the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies for excellence in innovative programming. In a press release, Mayor Bob Buckhorn credited the tree program with transforming Tampa's "once bland urban landscape to a lush and vibrant green canvass that's revitalized (the) city."
 
So, how can a Tampa resident participate in the program? Brad A. Suder, superintendent of Planning, Design and Natural Resources for Tampa's Parks and Recreation Department, explains the first step is to contact the city through an online request. You can also call 813-274-7733, but the city prefers online requests because they are easier to track. The city will then meet with you to assess the planting site and discuss which variety of tree would work best.
 
"There are 12 trees currently available," Suder says. "Six species are appropriate under power lines and in open areas: Crepe Myrtle Natchez, Bottle Brush, Japanese Blueberry, Silver Buttonwood, Loquat, Geiger White. There are six additional species with no overhead height restrictions: Live Oak, Tabebuia Yellow, Tabebuia Purple, Loblolly Pine, Florida Maple, Bald Cypress. They are in 30-gallon containers and are 8-10 feet overall height."
 
You're responsible for watering the new tree the first year after it's planted, and you have to commit to a 90-day watering schedule that entails watering the tree every other day for the first 30 days, watering every other day for the next 30 days, and watering every three days or twice a week for the last 30 days. After the 90-day watering schedule, you'll be expected to water the tree at least once a week.
 
"Once the water commitment is obtained, the request is placed into a future planting schedule," Suder explains. "Currently, the program plants approximately 20 trees per week and is scheduled through the end of February."
 
In the future, Suder says the city hopes to expand the tree species that it offers, as well as the scope of the program. That means businesses and other open spaces could also participate, and watering responsibilities would fall to the department in some cases.
 
For more information, visit the Tree-mendous Tampa Free Tree Program online.

RCMA opens new child-care center in Dover in east Hillsborough County

Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA) opened the doors to a new child-care center for the children of migrant farmworkers in Dover on Monday, Oct 31st. 

The $3.6 million, 15,000-square-foot center triples the capacity of children served from 88, at the current center, to 264. 

RCMA expects to start caring for 70 children who had been on a waiting list. That number is expected to increase to 172 by the peak of the strawberry season in Dover this February. 

Children cared for at the current center will also be moved to the new center. RCMA is Florida’s largest nonprofit child-care provider with 68 centers across Florida. Its Dover operations are funded by the federal Migrant & Seasonal Head Start program, which focuses on serving migrant families. 

For more information contact Elda Cruz, RCMA Center Coordinator, at 813.707.7002 or via e-mail her by following this link

RCMA abre nuevo centro de cuidados infantiles en Dover

Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA) abrió las puertas a un nuevo centro de cuidado infantil para los hijos de trabajadores agrícolas migrantes en Dover el pasado lunes 31 de octubre. el centro de 15.000 pies cuadrados triplica la capacidad de atención a los niños de 88, en el centro actual, a 264.
 
RCMA espera arrancar sus operaciones con 70 niños que estaban en lista de espera. Pero esperan que ese número aumente a 172 durante la temporada alta de cultivo de fresas en Dover el mes de febrero.
 
Los niños atendidos en el centro actual también serán trasladados al nuevo centro. RCMA es el mayor proveedor de cuidados infantiles sin fines de lucro en Florida con 68 centros en todo el estado. Sus operaciones en Dover son financiadas por el programa federal Migrant & Seasonal Head Start, que se centra en servir a las familias migrantes.
 
Para más información contacte a Elda Cruz, Coordinadora del centro de RCMA, llame al 813.707.7002 o vía correo electrónico 

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.

New townhome development Westbay planned for South Tampa

What is now a vacant lot will become the location of affordable townhomes by next summer.
 
Urban Edge Development plans to build a six-unit townhouse development on West Bay Avenue, just east of Dale Mabry Highway. It will be called WestBay Townhomes and will consist of 1,400-square-foot town houses with three bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, garages and designer kitchens with stainless steel appliances, granite countertops and 42-inch upper cabinets. Prices will be in the mid-$200,000s.
 
Russ Versaggi, president of Urban Edge, says the company hopes to break ground on the project in November and complete it by early summer 2017.
 
"South Tampa continues to be one of the strongest markets in the Bay area and therefore provides strong demand for well-designed housing," Versaggi says. "South Tampa has much going for it: proximity to employment centers, restaurants, specialty retailers, recreational venues, Bayshore, etc."
 
Versaggi is an experienced infill developer who says he is focusing on bringing quality affordable housing to top infill locations in the Tampa Bay Area where most people want to live, work and play. The company looks for job centers, entertainment, shopping and highway access.
 
"Infill development is the process of developing vacant or under-utilized parcels within existing urban areas that are already developed for the most part," he says. "It is like 'filling in' the gaps of a neighborhood."
 
The townhouses are designed with first-time homebuyers in mind. The company is offering a builder credit of up to $5,000 to help buyers with closing costs.
 
"The current focus is really on delivering a quality home at a value price," says John Bielefeldt, Versaggi's marketing consultant. "The financing crunch, affordability gap and high rental rates makes affordable infill projects like WestBay very attractive to today's buyers. The younger buyers have been affected by school debt and the slowing economy, making homeownership very difficult for many."

More trails for walking, bicycling coming to Pinellas County thanks to state SUN Trail program

The Florida Department of Transportation has awarded $44,345,430 to 45 projects across the state, and Pinellas County received $7,062,488 of that total.
 
The majority of the money earmarked for Pinellas, $5.7 million, will go toward the second phase of the Pinellas Trail Loop from John Chestnut Park to Enterprise Road in Palm Harbor. The rest, almost $1.4 million, will go toward the Ream Wilson Clearwater Trail from the Courtney Campbell Causeway to Bayshore Boulevard.
 
The money comes from the state's Shared Use Nonmotorized or SUN Trail program, which was established in 2015 and is meant to help Floridians enjoy safe, recreational opportunities. The SUN Trail network consists of the developing statewide system of paved, multi-use trails for bicyclists and pedestrians, physically separated from vehicular traffic.
 
The projects span 21 counties throughout Florida and include the construction of 11 separate trail segments, which will add or improve approximately 20 miles of trail to Florida’s trail system. Another 34 projects will be in various pre-construction phases of work, such as feasibility study, environmental review and design.
 
Pinellas was the only county in the Tampa Bay area to receive funding.

"Combining multiple trail projects into an integrated statewide system requires coordination and a concerted effort," says Robin Birdsong, SUN Trail program manager. "The two projects in Pinellas County highlight how funding provided through the SUN Trail Program can help agencies leverage local funds, close trail gaps, and improve safety while enhancing multimodal transportation options."
 
The two Pinellas projects are part of five total projects that will help advance the Coast to Coast Connecter a 250-mile trail system linking the Gulf and Atlantic coasts through Central Florida.
 
Seventeen other projects are part of the St. Johns River Sea Loop, a 270-mile trail system that will link several communities, including St. Augustine, Daytona Beach, Titusville, DeLand and Palatka.
 
The other 23 projects are for individual trail segments throughout the rest of the state.

How you can vote for best local architectural design in AIA Tampa Bay competition

Are you into local architecture? 

Maybe you really like the craftsman style of the Gulf Gate Library, the unique canopies of the Tampa Riverwalk or the futuristic aspects of the USF Health Pharmacy.
 
Whatever your architectural preferences, AIA Tampa Bay is inviting you to be the judge of its annual Design Awards competition. Through Nov. 2, you can vote for the 2016 People's Choice winner.
 
"This year, we have 51 outstanding projects vying for the honor of being recognized by the community," says Phil Trezza, president of AIA Tampa Bay. "This competition during Tampa Bay Design Week is important to our community because it gives a voice to the people who live, work and play in the buildings our members have designed."
 
AIA Tampa Bay is the regional chapter of AIA or the American Institute of Architects, the professional association for architects and those in the architecture field. The organization has been holding a People’s Choice Design Award program consistently since 2012. Last year's winner was Rashid Medical Complex by Gresham, Smith & Partners, which received more than 170 votes.
 
This year's entries have been submitted by local architecture firms, design-build teams, architectural interns and students. Voters can see a gallery of the projects online and vote for their favorite.
 
"When voting, people should consider more than building aesthetics," says Dawn Mages, Executive Director of AIA Tampa Bay, "they should consider how the building functions for its users and if it is sustainable."
 
The winner of the People's Choice Award will be recognized during Tampa Bay Design Week at the Celebrate Design awards reception on Nov. 3 at The Italian Club, 1731 E. Seventh Ave. in Ybor City. The event is open to the public and tickets are $55 for AIA members and $75 for non-members.
 
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit AIA Tampa Bay online or call 813-229-3411.

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.
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