ST. PETERSBURG — On the heels of Sweetbay's bemoaned closing at Tangerine Plaza, Midtown could be losing another grocery store. An eviction lawsuit has been filed against the parent of Bravo Super Markets at 2333 34th St. S.
According to the recent suit, Bravo's owner hasn't paid rent since July, owes $34,000 and won't leave the building. So the landlord hopes the court will make the grocery business get out of the 23,000-square-foot store at Lakeview Shopping Center at the intersection of 22nd Avenue S and 34th Street.
Customers were worried to hear Bravo is facing eviction. It carries international foods such as plantains and sweet tamarind, a fruit indigenous to tropical Africa. It also carries plenty of staples including fruit, vegetables, dairy, soft drinks and condiments.
"Sweetbay closed so a lot of people have been coming here," said Ronney Fort. "Aldi is cheaper, but this is closer."
"We will miss it if it closes,'' said Maria Defoe. "It's the only store around that sells island food."
Several of the store's shelves are sparsely stocked and a 70- by 6-foot refrigerated cooler is empty. It has been that way for about two months and the store's inventory is getting lower, said customer Al Spearman. He'll miss the Bravo if it closes.
"You can get soul food here that you can't get other places," he said. His cart included turkey wings, beef ribs and turkey necks.
Other grocery stores in the area include Aldi at 2900 34th St. S and Walmart at 3501 34th St. S.
Bravo's store manager would not comment. Bravo is owned by Oqab Abuoqab, who is named in the suit and could not be reached for comment.
U-Save Group LLC, a company managed by Abuoqab, signed a contract to lease the former Price Busters in March 2011. The store first reopened as a U-Save then became Bravo Super Markets. The lawsuit alleges that Abuoqab's company quit paying rent four months after signing the lease.
Abuoqab owns several other Bravo Super Markets in Tampa as well as elsewhere in Florida. Some go by the name Bravo while others have different names. A store he bought in LaBelle was converted from a B & B Cash grocery, that was founded in 1923, to a U-Save. It closed a year ago.
It isn't clear if another grocer would fill the St. Petersburg space if Bravo vacates it. Norm Leonard, a local manager for the shopping center's landlord, N.Y.-based FSNK Shopping Center Inc., declined to comment.
Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Katherine Snow Smith can be reached at (727) 893-8785 or firstname.lastname@example.org.