For two new businesses in the city's Grand Central District, the past few weeks have been a mad dash to the finish line.
Ask the owners of Island Seafood Market and Bistro, at 2057 Central Ave., or the Queens Head, a few blocks west at 2501 Central Ave., and they'll say they're eager to be ready for this Saturday's St. Pete Pride parade and street festival.
"The great thing for all the businesses, whether or not they make a ton of money, is that day is really about the exposure. If they can market themselves to 70,000 people on one day, it hopefully will lead to people coming back to them,'' said Jeff Klein, co-chairman of St. Pete Pride, organizers of Florida's largest gay pride celebration.
Monday, owners of the Queens Head were still hustling to get ready. There was painting to be done in the bathrooms, where sheets of protective plastic draped walls covered with pages from Britain's cheeky tabloids.
At Island Seafood Market and Bistro, owners Linda Schuch, 46, and Elizabeth Moch, 49, were working on the finishing touches. Schuch hung colorful flags above the sidewalk, where tables and chairs awaited customers.
They did much of the work themselves, even tiling the floor. "We never want to see another piece of tile in our entire lives,'' Moch joked.
In recent months she scoured Craigslist for equipment and snagged great deals on display cases, a lobster tank and a steamer.
Island Seafood will offer fresh seafood that shoppers can cook at home or have steamed to take away. Patrons can sit and enjoy clam chowder — a Moch family recipe — lobster rolls, smoked fish spread, cod fish cakes, grouper sandwiches and other items from the menu. The store will offer beer and wine.
"We want to serve a lunch and then an early meal. It's our idea of a neighborhood market,'' said Schuch, who used to work for a large corporation. The two decided to start their business after Schuch was laid off.
At the Queens Head, stools stood ready at a bar that will serve European draft beers and wines from around the world. Though styled as an English pub, the owners are aiming for something a bit more upscale.
British-born owners Paul Smith, 36, and Darren Conner, 40, say they are offering a place where people can dress up.
"It's an English influence with a kind of South Beachy feel,'' Smith said.
He said they'll create a beach ambience outdoors with beds and lounges. "The idea is to create an outside living room. And the inside is a bit darker and sexier for the evening.''
The Queens Head will serve brunch and a traditional British roast beef dinner on Sundays. Chris Greer, the executive chef, said he'll serve European-influenced food with some traditional English pub fare.
The kitchen will be open today.
Over at Island Seafood, Moch and Schuch have recruited friends and family for the expected throngs. "We'll be here pretty early on Saturday,'' Schuch said.
Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2283.