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Largo store offers chance to taste U.K. memories

Fran Black, a Scot, and her English husband sell British foods, sweets and gifts at London Pride in Sabala Plaza on Walsingham Road in Largo.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Fran Black, a Scot, and her English husband sell British foods, sweets and gifts at London Pride in Sabala Plaza on Walsingham Road in Largo.

LARGO — When Laurie and Fran Black bought London Pride last fall, expatriates from the United Kingdom began flocking to the shop.

They came for the flavors of their homeland, said Fran Black. Things like Cornish pasties (a type of meat pie originally a lunch food for miners in Cornwall), bacon and bangers (sausage), Yorkshire pudding, Typhoo and PG Tips tea, Cadbury Flakes and Crunchies, dark beers and other imported groceries. There is even a corner for curry goods.

In addition to imported foods and beverages, the shop's gifts include mugs, tea and bar towels, T-shirts, baseball and golf caps, license plates, parking signs and movies.

The Blacks are well acquainted with the tastes of the U.K.

Laurie Black is a native of Reigate, England, and his wife, Fran, is a native of St. Andrews, Scotland. The couple owned and operated a restaurant in Ayr, Scotland, for 33 years. "It began as a French-Italian bistro," said Fran Black. "In the end, it was more French and modern British."

Their son, Toby, left home six years ago at age 16 to play ice hockey in Canada and the United States. He fell in love with America and the Blacks decided to emigrate, leaving their daughter, Emily, in Scotland to finish her university studies.

The couple settled in Tampa three years ago, buying a restaurant and a home on Davis Islands. After two years, they wanted to get into a different type of business and sold the restaurant.

While searching for a new venture, Laurie Black found London Pride on the Internet. Owners Gerry and Krysia Goodwin wanted to sell so they could retire.

Fran Black runs the shop most days while her husband sees to the couple's other two businesses: a real estate advertising magazine, Digest of Homes, and FunQuickTravel.com, an Internet travel agency. We asked Fran Black about the business.

Why do you think your shop is doing such a brisk business?

We expanded and have more beer, more frozen foods, more tea, more of everything. Every time I order, I get a few more different things. I just finished the Christmas order for puddings and other holiday foods.

There used to be more shops like this one — in St. Petersburg, Dunedin and Hudson. All are closed now and we're getting some of those customers.

Why is Indian food so popular with the Brits?

It's part of our history. It goes back to the (nearly 300) years that India was a British colony. Indian food is very popular throughout the U.K., more so than fish and chips. There are many Indians and Pakistanis living in England.

Do you plan to expand the business?

Yes, we're planning to start delivering to people in the area. We'll deliver everything from frozen food to gifts.

What do you like best about the business?

I love meeting the people that come in. Everyone wants to stay and chat. Some things they find here they haven't seen for years, like candy they remember from their childhood. Americans come in because they are interested in their roots or they want to buy some food or candy they enjoyed on holiday in the U.K.

Assisted living facility names senior official

John R. Grimes has been named executive director of Edinborough Square, an assisted living facility at 1959 Virginia St., Dunedin. The native of Niagara Falls, N.Y., is a registered nurse and has lived 10 years in Palm Harbor. He previously worked for the Florida state Agency for Health Care Administration in St. Petersburg.

Health store chooses architects for redesign

The Clearwater architectural firm of Klar & Klar has been commissioned to design a renovation and expansion of the popular Nature's Food Patch health food store on Cleveland Street.

Plans call for the 14,000-square-foot store to be improved and expanded to 20,000 square feet at a cost of nearly $1-million. The expansion plans were motivated by the growing organic grocery business.

Work is to begin Oct. 1 and will take about six months to complete. The store will remain open during construction.

The store, which opened in 1987, offers organic produce, bulk foods, supplements, pet supplies, body care, books and a cafe with drinks and dishes made daily.

Founded in 1993, Klar & Klar Architects is owned and operated by Roberta and Steven Klar. The firm designs commercial and residential projects and also does interiors. Its local completed commercial projects include St. Petersburg Hospice, the Gibraltar office building in Palm Harbor and the Columbia Diabetes Center in Clearwater.

Business seminars, classes, assistance

Pinellas County Business Development Center, 13805 58th St. N, Suite 1-200, in the Icot Business Center near Largo. Programs are free and meet from noon to 2 p.m. To speak with a business counselor or register for classes and seminars, call (727) 453-7200.

How to Start a Business meets every Wednesday. The introductory workshop offers information on how to conduct feasibility studies and develop business plans, how to obtain licenses and permits to be a legal business in Pinellas County and more.

Understanding Entrepreneurship meets the first Thursday of each month. Find out if you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur and discover the challenges and rewards of owning your own business. Evaluate your business acumen.

News of businesses and business people can be faxed to the Business Digest at 445-4119, e-mailed to cosdon@sptimes.com or mailed to Business Digest, 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756. We are interested in new and unusual businesses, promotions, expansions, commercial sales and major new contracts. Photos can be mailed or e-mailed by jpeg file.

>>If you go

London Pride

Where: Sabala Plaza, 14100 Walsingham Road, Largo. Hours: 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, closed Sunday. For more information: Visit www.londonpride.com or call (727) 517-3550.

Largo store offers chance to taste U.K. memories 08/21/08 [Last modified: Thursday, August 21, 2008 5:41pm]
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