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Pier businesses are here today, gone June 1


Say goodbye to the Global Candle Gallery, with its signature wax spheres. Say goodbye to the Crystal Mirage's glittering jewelry and paperweights. Say goodbye to Cha Cha Coconuts and about 20 other Pier businesses that have no plans to open a St. Petersburg location after they close up shop May 31. While several stores have other locations at John's Pass, Clearwater or Tarpon Springs and some plan to sell their wares online, none of the current Pier tenants except the Columbia and Dolphin Queen have a plan to maintain a St. Petersburg presence. A few are still looking for sites, but the clock is ticking.

Jonny Reno's

The casual restaurant with surfing décor can't catch a good site. Owner Jon La Budde has been negotiating to lease several spaces, but days before the Pier's closing, he has nothing on the horizon.

"Right now I'm in limbo," La Budde said. "I have put out some pleas: 'Does anybody have an idea I haven't come up with?' ''

He has negotiated with developer and music producer Bill Edwards about leasing the Garden, but that deal fell apart. La Budde was approached by a representative of Edwards' Shops at St. Pete about moving there. But no deal happened there either.

"My goal is to be on Central (Avenue) or Beach Drive or near there," La Budde said. "To be successful you have to have the tourists but you need to have a local following, too."

Elvis will leave the building

The vintage-looking arcade game featuring the "king" offering advice will probably be moved to Kissimmee's historic downtown. The palm reader and love meter arcade games will soon be measuring passions at an amusement park in Majorca, Spain.

It's not clear where the Zoltar fortune teller, hurricane chamber or photo booth will end up. The coin-operated machines are owned by several separate vendors, not the city.

Dene Holden of Orlando owns and invented Elvis, the love meter and a palm reading machine. He has 800 of his creations around the world, including most Ripley's Believe It or Not museums and the Alamo. He splits half of what the machines collect with the establishment where the devices sit.

The Columbia

The Columbia is the only business that plans to have a place at the next incarnation of the Pier. A proposed lease with the city calls for it to operate in 7,500 square feet at the new pier's Hub — an area to be located in the current Pelican parking lot. The air conditioned interior will seat 220 while outdoor seating and a rooftop venue will hold 100.

"I hope I haven't shot myself in the foot at the Pier," said Columbia owner Richard Gonzmart, referring to the uncertainty of the new Pier's future and timeline. He was in serious negotiations with the Shops at St. Pete and interested in moving the Columbia there until the deal with the city came about.

With six other Columbia restaurants and two Columbia Cafes, Gonzmart still has plenty to keep his company busy. Of course he regrets that 130 employees from Columbia and Cha Cha Coconuts, which he also owns, will be displaced when the Pier closes. Some will relocate to stores in Clearwater and Tampa.

Cha Cha Coconuts

After Cha Cha Coconuts serves its last Bahama Mama there is no plan for the beach bar atop the Pier to open elsewhere in the area. Gonzmart has been looking for locations on or near Beach Drive but hasn't found anything.

He thinks there may be a possibility for the casual bar and grill to find a spot at the new Pier, but there are no plans in the works at this point.

Peppers on the Pier

Peppers, with its spicy specialty foods and culinary gifts, will end its 17-year run soon.

"It costs $35,000 or more to move a retail store," owner Deborah Brown said, citing costs such as the first and last month's rent, new store buildout, painting, signs and advertising. She has worked at the Pier for 30 years in a jewelry store, the Christmas store and now her own store.

"The (proposed Lens) is going to suck money from now until doomsday," Brown added.

The Pier Aquarium

The Pier's core tourist attraction plans to reopen in six months as the Secrets of the Sea Marine Exploration Center and Aquarium at John's Pass Village.

The buildout of the 13,500-square-foot attraction will cost $4 million. Ironically, Harvard Jolly architects, the same firm that created the inverted pyramid, is designing the new and improved aquarium. The clear tube containing water and fish that stretches from floor to ceiling of the Pier's first floor, offering a sneak peek of the aquarium above, will be moved to the new digs at John's Pass.

Dolphin Queen

The sightseeing, dolphin-watching boat that leaves from the Pier will still operate just a few yards away from Slip 46 of the city's marina next to Fresco's Waterfront Bistro. Fresco's isn't going anywhere and won't be affected by the Pier closing.

Global Candle Gallery

"We're closing up shop and I'm going on unemployment," said Nic Weathersbee, a partner in the Global Candle Gallery. The store's unique concept of carving pictures, from palm trees to team logos, into spherical candles has mesmerized kids and adults at the Pier since 2001. There are a handful of franchises at places such as Sedona, Ariz. and San Diego. The first store still operates at John's Pass.

Wheel Fun Rental

John McKinlay doesn't know where his rental surreys and bikes will end up, but he is talking with St. Petersburg city officials about another location along the waterfront.

"I'm hoping to maintain a presence," he said. "If not, everything will go into storage."

Crystal Mirage

Like all mirages ultimately do, the Crystal Mirage will also disappear.

"I think I'll take a break," said owner Carol Gray, who has been at the Pier for 25 years. "I may look in Clearwater, Tarpon Springs, Anna Maria or Sarasota but I would never open in St. Petersburg. I think what the city has done borders on illegal."

Lost in Time

Brian Evensen, who has collected fossils and meteorites from around Florida for 50 years, will move the collection from his Lost in Time store to his home temporarily. He is talking with city officials in Gulfport and St. Pete Beach about opening a small natural history center. He also plans to sell some items on eBay.

"We all did not want to leave the Pier," Evensen said. "We tried to save it."

Katherine Snow Smith can be contacted at (727) 893-8785 or

>>Fast facts

Other stores

that will close

Cafe Morrow


Hong Kong Corner

Just Hats



St. Pete Logo store

Bait House

MJ Toons


Burger Bay

World Treasures

Pier businesses are here today, gone June 1 05/18/13 [Last modified: Saturday, May 18, 2013 10:00pm]
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