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Old Hyde Park shuffles lineup

Over the next few months, the Village will see a rash of openings and closings and building in every direction.

Published October 29, 2004

The holiday rush is starting early at Old Hyde Park Village. The outdoor shopping center's ongoing campaign to compete with, and distinguish itself from, major malls has resulted in another rash of arrivals, moves and, possibly, a demolition.

Take a deep breath. The list is lengthy.

Designer women's clothing store BCBG Maz Azria is scheduled to open today in the former spot of the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, which returned to its original home next to Georgette's.

The delayed conversion of the Samba Room restaurant into the Timpano Italian Chophouse is finally under way. Hurricane-related delays in the construction industry caused the holdup, said Josh Fisher of E-Brands Restaurants, the Orlando company that owns Samba Room and Timpano.

The Samba Room closed Oct. 16, about a month and a half later than originally planned. Construction has begun to convert the 4,830-square-foot space into a retro-style chophouse featuring fresh pasta and grilled meats.

E-Brands also has Timpanos in Fort Lauderdale and Rockville, Md. Old Hyde Park's Timpano should be open by December, Fisher said.

Construction has also begun on the new space for the Alan G. Ledo Salon on the second level in the former Williams-Sonoma, which recently moved downstairs next to Lifestyle Family Fitness.

The salon should move from its location on Swann Avenue early next year, said village marketing director Heather LaBrecque. In the meantime, the salon will hold its Hair-i-cane Relief fundraiser on Monday to benefit the American Red Cross. The daylong event will include raffles, appetizers, cocktails and live music from local jazz vocalist Fred Johnson.

Bijoux jewelers on Dakota Avenue will expand next door. Construction will commence about Jan. 1.

The Mad Hatter hat shop opened three weeks ago in the former Tarpon Bay Trading Co. space but may have to move again soon.

The village is negotiating with the city's Architectural Review Commission to demolish the 1920s building that houses Mad Hatter and other stores and replace it with a smaller building to improve pedestrian flow on Snow Circle and create room for outdoor dining for a prospective restaurant.

LaBrecque said the issue should be resolved with the city within a month, and demolition could begin by March.

Another of the old building's tenants, the Nicholson House, will move across the street to the former Baby Gap space early next year.

The Sona Med Spa is building on the second level, directly above Storehouse, and plans to open in December or January. Seasonal tenant Calendar Club is scheduled to open Monday next to White House Black Market.

BEER CENTRAL ON SWANN: As the owner of the former Papa Dan's convenience store at 1021 W Swann Ave., Rama Shaquile Ahmed found himself stuck between the Swann Avenue Kash n' Karry and downtown Publix.

He soon realized that focusing on groceries would be a losing battle.

So Ahmed decided to convert Papa Dan's to a mega beer store. "We wanted to be the No. 1 store in Florida, not just in Hillsborough County," he said.

Those aren't just words. Ahmed doesn't know exactly how many different brands he carries, but his sign boasts 3,000.

Ahmed bought the business at Swann and Delaware Avenue in September 2002 and began remodeling a few months later. He gradually changed his merchandise while trying to compete with the big supermarkets before deciding to take the beer plunge in June. That's when he changed the store's name to Hyde Park Express and stocked his aisles with brew from all over the planet.

Throw a dart at a globe. If you hit land, chances are Ahmed has beer from that country, including Turkey, Slovakia, Jamaica, Poland, Brazil, Honduras, Bolivia, Peru, Dominican Republic, Czech Republic, Lithuania and India. Among the more obscure places: Belzebuth, France; Samichlause, Austria; Fiddler's Elbow, United Kingdom; Balitka Classic, Russia; Tusker, Kenya; and Karlovacko, Croatia.

But Belgium gets the greatest representation in Ahmed's United Nations of suds. He sells 25 labels. "Belgium makes the best and most flavorful beers in the world," Ahmed said, adding that the cork swing tops common on Belgian brews give them longer shelf life and have great marketing appeal.

Ahmed also sells domestic beer, including an extensive selection of American microbrewers.

What's Ahmed's most potent selection? Dogfish Head 120 Minutes IPA from Delaware, with 21 percent alcohol by volume. His most expensive? Deus from Belgium at $25 a bottle.

Though Ahmed is looking to add even more beers to his inventory, he still saves space in his store for some grocery items.

Time for a chaser of irony. Ahmed is a native of Pakistan, where Islamic law forbids alcohol. "And look how much I got now," he said.

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