A full-fledged bistro six years in the making

Published June 2, 2006

A new coffee shop? Old Seminole Heights already has one of those. So Elizabeth Graham's longstanding project is now shaping up to be a full-fledged restaurant.

The owner of Forever Beautiful Salon and Day Spa at 5135 N Florida Ave. fancies the name Bungalow Bistro of Seminole Heights for the refurbished and converted garage apartment next door. She cautiously says it could open some time in September.

Graham is tentative because she has been trying to open the cafe since 2000, when she bought a 1908 bungalow on nearby Hillsborough Avenue and its accompanying garage apartment, moved them to Florida Avenue, turned the bungalow into salon and day spa, and hatched plans to make the apartment into a coffee and dessert shop.

Government red tape, the demands of running the salon and lots of concept changes have forced Graham to delay the bistro's arrival. Construction began last summer, and now the expanded 2,600-square-foot structure could seat about 50 outside and 50 inside, Graham said.

In addition to gourmet coffee and desserts, she wants the menu to include sandwiches, soups, salads, focaccia bread and oven-roasted vegetables. Graham says her mother, retired food educator and pastry chef Matilda Morabito, will run the kitchen.

Nikki Couture of Couture Decor of Seminole Heights is collaborating with Graham on the restaurant's look. No decisions have been made, but Graham said the theme will be "Hip, 1920s revival. We're trying to keep it in that time period."

As the restaurant takes shape, Graham also plans to morph Forever Beautiful Salon and Day spa into Forever Beautiful Salon and Med Spa. She hopes to add services such as laser electrolysis, vein therapy and photo facials to the menu of services. The exterior landscaping will be upgraded, too.

WISH UPON A NEW BUILDING: If anyone knows that wishes can come true, it's the Make-A-Wish Foundation. A private ribbon-cutting ceremony set for Wednesday will open the local chapter's new office at 1719 W Kennedy Blvd. The office will more than double the space of the agency's previous location at 5033 W Laurel St.

Executive director Vee Yerrid said the new 5,000-square-foot digs between Fremont and Willow avenues will have a kitchen and space for training volunteers and board meetings. "We're uptown, actually," Yerrid said with a laugh.

She said the move was possible thanks to a grant from the local Charitable Needs Trust.

The Sarasota Tampa Bay chapter is marking its 20th anniversary this month.

COUTURE'S HOUSE COUTURE: With the exception of an old church spire and a new Starbucks, downtown Seminole Heights isn't exactly eye candy. Gas stations, car repair shops and an interstate overpass hold sway.

But some improvements are in the works near Hillsborough Avenue and Interstate 275. A weathered, two-story house on the southwest corner of Hillsborough and Central avenues is getting extensive renovations, including new floors, trim, fixtures, bathrooms and a fresh coat of paint

Nikki Couture of Couture Decor of Seminole Heights is orchestrating the project. She owns the 1910 house at 5310 N Central Ave. with her husband, Stephen Couture.

Stephen, a chief financial officer for Premier Exhibitions of Atlanta, will use the ground floor of the 2,934-square-foot house as his office. They plan to rent the second floor as office space. Nikki said the house should be done by late June. The former occupants previously converted the building into a recording studio/private residence.

Nikki started her business in December and operates out of her home on nearby Thomas Street.

Do you know something that should be everybody's business? Call 226-3392.