BAYSHORE GARDENS — When a business is as popular as eatery Pane Rustica, it's hard to keep expansion plans under wraps, especially when those plans include the need for a liquor license and 2,300 square feet of new space.
But rumors of a trendy martini bar are greatly exaggerated, say owners Kevin and Karyn Kruszewski.
"That's not what we're about," Kevin Kruszewski said. "I don't want it to be 'the scene,' I just want it to be an extension of our business."
And that's what it will be, say the Kruszewskis, only with double the seating. By April, Pane Rustica should have a casual, modern bar in the new space next door to its location at 3225 S MacDill Ave., as well as banquet seating for parties of up to 60 people.
The couple, who opened Pane Rustica in 1999 and have spent five years in their 5,600-square-foot current location, have long thought about expansion. They quickly jumped at the opportunity when next-door neighbor Village Health Market decided to shrink the size of its store.
It wasn't the ideal time to grow the business, Karyn Kruszewski said, but "in life, sometimes that's what happens." They knew they might never get another chance.
Behind the scenes, Pane Rustica is already a huge operation. The restaurant makes its own breads, pastries and desserts from scratch — everything is made on site except the gelato — and sells many items to other local businesses.
The new space will be used entirely for extra seating. Its centerpiece will be a bar that will either be U-shaped or oval with an open, modern feel. Booths will accommodate overflow seating, and two banquet areas will seat a total of 60 people.
The restaurant's current space will get a minor facelift but otherwise will remain unchanged. Construction on the expansion should begin this month, and Pane Rustica expects to be able to book events for April and beyond.
The menu will be expanded to include interesting cocktails as well as a few unusual edibles.
"I just want to offer items that are different, a little left of center," Kevin Kruszewski said. "The whole thing is going to be in keeping with the attitude we have now."
For the new year, it's new pirate gear
Just in time for Gasparilla — and only a string of beads' throw from the parade route — Marie McKinnon has opened a boutique stuffed with pirate-themed bags, jewelry and T-shirts.
Ruby's Cottage by Marie Antoinette (Antoinette is McKinnon's middle name) opened last month in a tiny bungalow at 3312 W Bay to Bay Blvd. McKinnon opened the shop just weeks after her booth won the Top of the Market award at the Junior League of Tampa's Holiday Gift Market.
The space is filled with Gasparilla-related gear, blingy jewelry, clothing and unusual handbags.
"Nothing's very expensive," McKinnon said. "We're very reasonable."
It's the second incarnation of a shop McKinnon first opened in 2005, when she and her sisters launched Ruby's Cottage — named after their late mother — in Odessa. The shop closed about a year ago.
This time, McKinnon has entered into partnership with Julie Tate of DI Body and Boutique, who moved with McKinnon into the Bay to Bay bungalow after the lease expired on her location at 227 E Davis Blvd. on Davis Islands. Tate is a licensed massage therapist and aesthetician who also does spray tanning.
Hours at Ruby's Cottage by Marie Antoinette are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 to 5 on Friday and Saturday and 10 to 3 on Sunday. The shop's phone number is (813) 294-9893.
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