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Around the Bay: Quirky, independent downtown may get a Starbucks

A proposal to redevelop a busy corner on Main Street could - maybe, possibly, conceivably - bring Starbucks to downtown Dunedin.

By Times Staff
Published July 2, 2007


Dunedin

Quirky, independent downtown may get a Starbucks

A proposal to redevelop a busy corner on Main Street could - maybe, possibly, conceivably - bring Starbucks to downtown Dunedin.

It would be the first national chain retailer to open in what has been for years a lively area characterized by independent, even quirky businesses.

Joe Kokolakis, president of J Kokolakis Contracting and a city resident of 20 years, closed last month on the property, the home of Allen's Florist.

Kokolakis said he has a letter of intent from the international coffee franchise to take up shop at 312 Main St. No lease agreements have been made with Starbucks.

Gregory Brady, owner of Gregory's Salon, said the possible arrival of a national chain to downtown Dunedin, brings mixed emotions.

Some small business owners think a Starbucks would bring more foot traffic to their stores, Brady said.

Others are concerned about a corporate business arriving in an entrepreneurial town and fear Starbucks could take away business away from local restaurants that serve coffee and breakfast.

SAFETY HARBOR

You won't have those sandwich boards to kick around

True, said City Manager Billy Beckett, "no one in this city has ever been attacked by a sandwich board." People laughed when he said that during a recent City Commission meeting, but Beckett said it's a matter of time before someone trips.

And, he added, the city could be held liable if someone is hurt after stumbling over one of the freestanding A-frame signs that now line Main Street.

So city commissioners recently signaled that they plan to crack down on many of the eclectic signs along sidewalks by enforcing an existing rule on where they are allowed.

Starting Jan. 1, businesses off Main Street would not be allowed to put their sandwich boards on Main Street. Commissioners are expected to vote on the plan at an upcoming meeting.

Putting the ban in place next year is expected to give officials time to install permanent signs that direct visitors to businesses on side streets. The design of those new signs has yet to be determined.

But some merchants are skeptical about how effective they'll be.

"It's a disappointment, " said Julie Brannon, owner of Bailey's Naturals at 470 Second St. N, who campaigned to keep the signs.

Gulfport

They're embroiled in a culture clash over parking

TLC Food Mart, a small convenience store and Greek deli, is the kind of place where owner Taso Papargirious knows the names of his customers and their preferred brand of cigarettes by memory.

La Fogata, a Brazilian steak house that recently opened next door, is the type of restaurant that offers free valet parking and $1, 000 bottles of French wine.

In a dispute that has disturbed the whole neighborhood, the businesses are going head to head.

The cause of all this friction? A row of public parking spots lining Beach Boulevard, Gulfport's downtown business thoroughfare. Some business owners complain that La Fogata is monopolizing the limited number of free public parking spots in the area. "I think a lot of neighbors are not so happy because we are big and they don't like the change. I'm very sorry about that, but there is nothing we can do about it, " said Hans Gery Klenke, La Fogata's owner.

The rift represents a culture clash as Gulfport's longtime hippie-friendly establishments have started to give way to more sophisticated locales. In recent years, the city's artist community has been priced out of downtown and replaced with trendy restaurants and new merchants.

Property values also have soared, and, accordingly, so have taxes, at times putting a strain on longstanding business owners.

Pinellas County

Brazilian influence felt in growing businesses

The Brazilian community has grown rapidly in Pinellas County in the past few years, as evidenced by a number of Brazilian-owned businesses sprouting up and flying their country's flag.

"The community gathers around here because of all the stores, " said Nubia Quadros, who runs a tax, translation and notary service on Park Boulevard. She said many Brazilians see more opportunity here than in their homeland.

Fernando Gusmao started a mortgage company in 2003 to cater to new waves of Brazilians. Then in 2005 he started Cafe Brasil. He also has an interest in Brite Strategy Construction and bought into a legal-aid franchise.

One of the earliest infusions was Sugar Loaf Emporium, a small store started about 10 years ago by Gusmao's friend, Roberval Quintella, who sold out four years ago and moved back to Brazil.