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Shops begin to open doors at Parkshore

St. Petersburg Exotic art arrives at the condo tower. Coming soon are gelato, tea and fine d ining, and by 2007, jewelry, clothing and flowers.

By PAUL SWIDER
Published October 18, 2006


Stores at the foot of the Parkshore Plaza condominium tower finally began to open last week.

"They would all love to open right now, but it's a process," said John Hamilton, director of Beach Drive Retail, which is leasing space in the nearly completed Opus South Corp. building at Beach Drive and Third Avenue N. "Our whole philosophy is to make sure we put the right people in there, not to worry about the schedule."

Croatian Naive Art Gallery and Museum Collection was the first to open when it welcomed visitors Thursday. Owner Jim Nannen was hoping to open in March but said he's pleased with the results of his space.

"It seemed Opus was going to finish the retail last," Nannen said, "but they did a great job. They're wonderful people to work with."

Nannen unveiled his Beach Drive space to a small throng that enjoyed samples from other Parkshore vendors.

While people browsed the rustic reverse-painted art on glass, they tasted gelato from Paciugo, set to open next week, and a tiramisu rooibos-chocolate mate mix from Hooker Tea, aiming for a Nov. 1 debut.

In addition to regular business, Nannen is planning another event Saturday evening.

Carl Riche of Paciugo has been working for months on getting the right equipment and furniture so he can bring authentic Italian gelato to what Hamilton calls a shopping destination. Riche said it has been a challenge to get his small store open. Though he spent 30 years working with Wal-Mart, opened its first Sam's Club in 1983 and was a regional director, a small business doesn't mean quick solutions.

"I'm used to working with 230,000 square feet and 500 employees," he said. "This is a gear change, but it's not any easier."

Shawn Hooker said he wanted to open his tea shop earlier as well, but, this being his first foray into retail, he's not surprised it has taken some time. He said he's eager to open his doors and see how the market responds to his 100 varieties of tea and assorted accessories.

"Up until now, the choices people have been given are sweetened or unsweetened," Hooker said. Patterning his shop after some he has seen in larger cities, he said he's keen to put more of the chai in cafe.

"I didn't invent the wheel on this, just like Starbucks didn't invent it on coffee," he said.

Hamilton said other stores ready to open include the Parkshore Grill, a fine-dining establishment in the corner space facing Straub Park set for a Nov. 18 grand opening. Other shops opening by the end of the year include Renay Jewelers, In Search of Balance, an active-wear store, and Ka Bloom, a florist.

Hamilton said he is close to leasing three of his four remaining spaces, but he's not worried if the space is empty while he's finding the right tenant.

"We're fine with that," he said. Any new tenant "has to be a good fit."

Opus project manager Jason Smith said he is putting finishing touches on those retail units but that any delays had nothing to do with a May water leak that damaged some of the Parkshore condos. The retail spaces are not under the residences, he said. All damage from the leak has been repaired, he said, and owners affected by the leak have closed on their purchases and are moving in.

Hamilton is also shopping for tenants at Opus' other downtown project, 400 Beach Drive, at Beach Drive and Fifth Avenue N. Though that building won't be completed for a year, he said he has letters of commitment on 40 percent of the retail space.

"We're going to add a lot of depth to the whole downtown waterfront experience," he said, but noted that it can't happen quickly. "Building a downtown takes a long time."

Paul Swider can be reached at 892-2271 or pswider@sptimes.com or by participating in itsyourtimes.com.

[Last modified October 18, 2006, 08:18:26]


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