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Goodbye to Taverna Opa and bakery

Published April 27, 2007


Millions of dollars in backing, good food and the mayor's blessing evidently made little difference for flash-in-the-pan Ybor eateries Taverna Opa and Giorgio's Bakery and Bistro. The sister businesses closed this year - less than sixth months after Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio showed up at the bakery's grand opening for a ribbon cutting and photo op.

The owners of Taverna Opa, which is well known in South Florida for its Greek food and raucous atmosphere, bought the building at 1930 E Seventh Ave. and spent a year on extensive renovations before throwing open the doors to diners in late July. Giorgio's bakery followed a few weeks later.

The party ended quickly.

Taverna Opa, where the slogan was "open from 4 p.m. till the Ouzo runs out," couldn't attract enough fun-loving fans of Greek food. Lines remained long at the established and popular Acropolis restaurant a block away while Taverna Opa sat uncomfortably quiet.

"I'm not sure the owners' expectations were in line" with the neighborhood, said Thomas Keating, CEO and president of the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce. "The 1900 block is in redevelopment mode."

What's more, Keating said, "I don't know if they understood the Tampa Bay market. They seemed to be looking for Las Vegas, Disney World, high traffic. They didn't start small."

Taverna Opa's owners have abandoned Ybor and are going ahead with a new location in Orlando, according to the company's Web site. Company officials did not return calls for comment.

The Seventh Avenue building, which Taverna Opa's founders purchased in 2004 for $875,000, is for sale. A West Palm Beach real estate company has listed it for $2.6-million. Listing agent Nikolaos Karachalias said the Orlando location is a franchise, while the Ybor location was being run by company owner Peter Tsialiamanis. The frequent trips to Tampa and staffing problems took their toll, and Tsialiamanis didn't want to deal with it anymore, Karachalias said.

"He tried to keep the store for himself and it didn't go too well," Karachalias said.

Channel your inner cowboy - or pirate

The nightlife options are improving for the new, younger homeowners filtering into Channelside and downtown.

The folks who brought Margarita Mama's and Banana Joe's to Channelside have unveiled McGraw's for the cowboy hat set. The 21-and-over club, which opened last week next to the Channelside Cinemas in a previously unoccupied space, describes itself as country with an edge. (It is not affiliated, by the way, with country star Tim McGraw.)

McGraw's has a "rustic roadhouse feel" and offers a full bar inside and out, dancing, pool tables and live music at least once a week, general manager Morgan Rhule said. For now it's open Fridays and Saturdays 9 p.m. to 3 a.m., with plans to add Wednesday and Thursday nights at a later date.

Meanwhile, a combination bar/mini mart called Pirate's Cove will be opening soon on the street side at Channelside, said Kathy Walsh, Channelside's leasing manager.

More Giggles

The owner of trendy children's clothing store Giggle Box Couture plans to expand her business to bedding next month.

Jennifer Tishler has taken over a small retail space two doors down from her main store on W Bay to Bay Boulevard. Good Night Giggle, at 3205 W Bay to Bay, will carry bedding lines for infants to adolescents. Tishler said she expects to open the spinoff store next month.

The small space was previously home to Gulf Coast Jeans Co., a premium denim shop that opened in August and closed in January. Gulf Coast Jeans Co.'s first store, which opened at Channelside in September 2005, also has closed.

Do you know something that should be everybody's business? Call 226-3394 or e-mail


You'll take a shine to Milagros handmade soap, poured into loaves and sold by the $8 slice. They'll custom make your design or logo, like this minaret the Friends of Plant Park ordered for GreenFest patrons. There are more than 80 loaves to choose from. Also lotions, bath gels, body sprays and salt scrubs, all handmade at 701 S Howard Ave. Visit or call 251-1255.


[Last modified April 26, 2007, 07:42:03]

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