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Gourmet market changes name but owner's fame remains

NORTH BON AIR — Paul Ruel has decided it's time to bring the outdoors in.

The owner and founder of the Outdoor Kitchen Store on Kennedy Boulevard, Ruel has changed the name on the gourmet market he opened next door almost a year ago.

The Outdoor Kitchen Gourmet Market at 3917 W Kennedy became Paul's Meats and Seafood last month. The reason? He thinks many potential customers thought they should stop by only on nights they planned to grill.

"That's the perception we have to get away from," Ruel said. "(The change) has been tremendous for us. … People say, 'Oh, there is a new meat market here. When did you open?' I say, 'Ten months ago.' "

The market itself is no different, Ruel said. It offers high-quality meats and seafood, weekly cooking classes, wine, cheese and other specialty items. Hours are the same: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 to 4 on Saturday.

There has been one other notable change. Around the same time Ruel changed the name, the market's general manager, John Pivar — known among area foodies for his seven-year stint as the Renaissance Vinoy executive chef — also left the business.

Pivar left the Vinoy last year and teamed up with Ruel, where plans were for him to run the market as well as expand on the cooking classes that were already a fixture at the Outdoor Kitchen Store. But he and Ruel had different visions, Pivar said, and he since has decided to open a gourmet market near downtown St. Petersburg. Both Pivar and Ruel said they parted amicably.

"Yes, it was wonderful that John was here, but this business has been going on for 13 years," Ruel said. "Did he bring a lot to the table when he came in? Absolutely he did. There are no ill feelings."

Pivar, who also has written two cookbooks, lives in Largo. He said he is close to securing a location for a new market on Fourth Street in St. Petersburg. He envisions something similar to Fancy's, a gourmet market on Fourth Street that was open for more than 20 years before closing in 2003.

While acknowledging that "talk is cheap," Pivar said, "I cannot tell you how many people say to me, 'If you open a (market like) Fancy's, we'll be there every day.' " Any market he opens would place a big emphasis on prepared meals, he said.

For some, an opportunity

Real estate broker Michael Winiarek isn't complaining about the rough housing market.

His company, Engel and Voelkers, based in Hamburg, Germany, caters to overseas buyers who lately have taken advantage of falling prices in the United States and a declining dollar.

"The distressed projects and properties are already selling at a discount," Winiarek said. "You include the currency exchange rates, and these groups overseas are in a very good position right now."

Winiarek opened the area's first office of Engel and Voelkers in January in Hyde Park. He plans to add a second early next year at Avion Park, a lodging, retail and office complex under construction near International Plaza.

Winiarek will co-own the Avion Park office with Ray Alexander, who owns another Engel and Voelkers office in Anna Maria Island. The new office will serve North Tampa and northwest Hillsborough County.

Winiarek said he expects to be open by January in a strip of retail space that eventually should include a high-end restaurant and a financial institution.

No other retail tenants have been announced for Avion Park, which is located at Spruce and O'Brien streets and will have 500 hotel rooms, 450,000 square feet of office space and 25,000 square feet of retail space.

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Gourmet market changes name but owner's fame remains 07/17/08 [Last modified: Thursday, July 17, 2008 4:32am]
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