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Fireplace store offers backyard focal points

PALMA CEIA WEST — Most homeowners looking to spruce up their landscape are familiar with those gurgling fountains or small ponds that add interest to a back yard.

But a fireplace — in Florida?

Shelly Meadows says fire can be just the thing to "add some sparkle" to an outdoor space. Meadows, a factory representative for Australia's EcoSmart Fire products for the past three years, has opened a fire-focused retail store and showroom called Urban Concepts.

The 1,200-square-foot store at 2307-G S Dale Mabry Highway, formerly occupied by clothing boutique Suitcase, stocks fireplaces and standalone burners, most of them meant to be used indoors or outdoors as decoration or to help ward off a slight winter chill.

"We help people develop focal points," Meadows said. "Most of it is very edgy, urban contemporary. . . . We can put the 'bling' in the patio."

Meadows said the fireplaces she sells are not too hot or sooty and almost every item in Urban Concepts is fueled by clean-burning ethanol (denatured alcohol that can be found at the hardware store). The fireplaces and smaller burners don't require ventilation and can be customized to fit most any space, she said.

During the three years she has carried EcoSmart Fire products from an office on Race Track Road, Meadows said sales have continued to grow even as much of the home improvement economy has struggled. Though she calls fireplaces a niche business, especially in Florida, she said clients kept telling her to open a retail store.

"I really think the outdoor living space is underserved," Meadows said. "Especially in Florida, where the outdoor spaces need to be utilized — even side yards. Get rid of the grass, let's do rock gardens and water features."

The store, which opened in January, is a showroom for fireplaces and burners as well as modern gift items, large planters and water elements like fountains. Fire comes in all price ranges, from $90 for tabletop "fire bowls" to fireplaces that start at $900 and top out at about $7,000.

Urban Concepts also will host seminars, including one on "fireplace facelifts" at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 to 5 on Saturday and by appointment. The store's Web site is

Fresh bagels on MacDill

Scott Fuchs and John Constantinopoli grew up together on Long Island, where it wasn't hard to find a place to buy a fresh bagel made from scratch.

The childhood friends wanted to bring what they called "the authentic bagel experience" to Tampa. In late November they opened the Tampa Bay Bagel Co. at 4004 S MacDill Ave., in the former home of the Junction ice cream and coffee shop.

"We felt that Tampa was missing a traditional bagel made from scratch — kettle boiled and baked on premises," Fuchs said. "There are a lot of transplants, people that come from up North that are used to that."

Constantinopoli is an experienced and formally trained chef with a baking specialty from the New England Culinary Institute; Fuchs is a former luxury hotel manager. They came up with a menu that includes 16 types of bagels made daily; bagel sandwiches with eggs just off the grill, bacon, ham or sausage; challah French toast on the weekends; chicken salad; salmon salad; and chopped salad where the customer chooses the ingredients.

The Tampa Bay Bagel Co. opens at 6 a.m. daily, closing at 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 4 p.m. on Saturday and 3 p.m. on Sunday. The store's Web site is

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Fireplace store offers backyard focal points 03/04/10 [Last modified: Thursday, March 4, 2010 3:31am]
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