Customer now partner in new venture

Palma Ceia The two will open a deli and a market.

By Sharon Ginn, Times Correspondent
Published February 22, 2008

Though Vivia Grier's cafe and catering business was open for only about a year in Old West Tampa, it was long enough to develop a loyal following.

Two of Grier's best customers were Roger and Suzanne Perry, entrepreneurs who had recently moved to Hyde Park from Ocala and often dropped by the tiny bungalow on Armenia Avenue last year for takeout after their son's hockey practices.

"One day, there was a sign saying she did takeout meals," Roger Perry said. "My wife zipped in, met Vivia, loved the food and we started going there.

"A lot of things in life are chance."

Grier, 38, closed Vivia's Kitchen in July amid staffing problems and other challenges, but right away began looking for a new venture. Enter Roger Perry, a businessman with an impressive track record as an owner of retail stores and thoroughbred horses, who had long wanted to open his own neighborhood deli. He asked Grier to partner with him.

Their collaborative effort, Datz Delicatessen and Market, is set to open in the next two or three months in the former site of Botanica International Florist at 2616 S MacDill Ave. The site is now under construction.

In November, the Perrys purchased the building, which was the original home to legendary Tampa restaurant Mise En Place before being converted into Botanica about 20 years ago.

The restaurant will be part deli, part gourmet market and will be open six days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and brunch on Sundays. The emphasis will be on lunch, Perry said, and the atmosphere will be upscale.

"My food is very clean, very healthy, a very casual sort of dining," Grier said. "There's not one particular word I can use to describe it. It's an influence from the Caribbean, where I'm from, and I've picked up things here and there. ... What we're doing is marrying my food with some of the things Roger wants to do and is passionate about."

A frequent traveler, Perry, 53, loves trying new places and said he has always gravitated toward great delis.

He looks for variety in the food, but also "the concept of family, being a part of the neighborhood," Perry said. "Everybody knows everybody, and it's a good place to hang out. ... I wanted to bring something like that to our neighborhood."

Part of the 8,000-square-foot Datz Delicatessen building will house a gourmet market, with a variety of cheeses, olive oil and vinegars, and tapenades, condiments and specialty beer and wine selections. Perry hopes the dining area will seat about 100, but the city has not yet fully approved the plans.

The full breakfast menu will include pancakes, waffles and bagels - specialties include lemon pancakes.

At lunchtime, Datz will offer about 40 to 50 different sandwiches, all with "funky names," Perry said. Offerings will include classic Reubens, as well as crab cake sandwiches and a Grier creation featuring Atlantic salmon topped with egg salad. The dinner menu will consist of about six to eight specials every day, changing ingredients with the seasons. Beer and wine will be available.

"It will be very casual, fun, clean, fresh food," Grier said. Dinner customers can eat in, or "come in and pick up a rotisserie chicken and some of my stir fried brown rice."

The building has ample parking, but "if the dinner menu goes well, we'll probably (also) do valet in the evening," Perry said. "We want to be a good neighbor and work with everybody in the neighborhood."

If the venture is successful, Perry said he wants to expand the concept and open mini "Datz-A-Delis" similar in size to a typical small sandwich shop.