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Sunshine City Grill departs, but owner vows to return

The property, once a diner and a Chinese restaurant, will be redeveloped.

By PAUL SWIDER
Published May 20, 2007


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ST. PETERSBURG - The sun may have set on the Sunshine City Grill, but it will rise again soon, says owner Reece Youmans.

"The regulars don't want to see us go, " he said from the location at Fourth Street and 14th Avenue N that closed Saturday night, "and they're anxious to see us return."

The 3-year-old establishment in a 60-year-old former Chinese restaurant has had a good run, Youmans said, but the landowner plans to redevelop the property and Sunshine City will have to make way for a year or so. The change comes amid some churn in the city's restaurant landscape.

Julian's closed its location next to BayWalk in April and will be replaced soon by RattleFish Grill. Madison's closed its spot on the opposite side of the shopping complex in Plaza Tower Courtyard Shops and Zapata's Authentic Mexican is taking over there. Another Fourth Street stop, Pizze Rustica, has also changed hands and will reopen soon. Real estate agents say there's a crisp business in restaurant properties and rumors abound about long-standing establishments.

Youmans said he had his sights on the Madison's location, but got to it a step late. He said he may just wait until something new rises where he is now, but he may also scout other locations, if they're truly on the market.

Word on the street had it that Pepin's, the 27-year-old institution on Fourth Street N, was for sale but the family owners say that's not the case. Fourth Street Shrimp Store was supposed to be on the block, but the owner there says that's not true. Some restaurant owners say they'll entertain an outrageous offer, but are not actively shopping their properties.

Youmans said he's looking forward to coming back after property owner Fourth Street Filler completes the redevelopment of property that runs between 13th and 14th avenues. The property owner could not be reached, but Youmans said the plan would include some office and retail space and room for his restaurant.

Youmans, 39, said he'll miss running his place but he won't miss the headaches of the building. He has had to be plumber and carpenter and all-around handyman to take care of a business that, despite his efforts, never had the curb appeal he wanted.

"That was our biggest obstacle, " he said, "was getting people to stop in."

The building was originally a Spurlock's diner, Youmans said, and went through many iterations and redecorations, ending in the Great Wall Chinese restaurant before he gutted the place and turned it upscale. Now nearly everything in the building will be auctioned off Tuesday at a public event.

"The only thing we're not selling is the sports memorabilia, " said Youmans, whose father, Maury, played on the Chicago Bears' 1963 championship team and lent autographed pictures of his football friends from that era. But bar stools and kitchen equipment and everything else must go.

For now, Youmans the younger will take some time off and nurse a recently repaired football injury of his own. After 20 years in the restaurant business, he's still ready for more.

"I'm hoping the staff will be able to come back for us, " he said. "We built a nice little business here."

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

[Last modified May 19, 2007, 20:20:50]


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