PALMA CEIA — After 20 years at its Gandy Boulevard location, Vietnamese eatery Indochinois is opening a new 80-seat restaurant in a spot that's closer to many of its most loyal customers.
The Huynh family has spent a year renovating a former insurance office in the boutique-laden Carriage Trade Plaza. The new Indochinois is expected to open late this month in the 3,000-square-foot space at 1914 S Dale Mabry.
The original restaurant at 3324 W Gandy Blvd. will remain open for now, said Mike Huynh, son of owners An and Doi Huynh. But his parents "are getting to the point where they are going to be enjoying their golden years," so that location eventually will be phased out.
Huynh said the new place will be more convenient for Indochinois' many Palma Ceia and West Shore customers, and will allow for more spontaneous lunchtime diners.
"As business started slowing down because of the economy, I decided that we did need to move to a place where (there is) a main artery," Huynh said. "We'll have a lot more walk-in traffic and be closer to our core customers."
The other shoe drops
Tampa shoe designer Steven Salario, whose "Palm Beach" sandal has been a resort (and South Tampa) staple for much of the decade, has closed his Swann Avenue retail outlet and temporarily shut down most of his production in South America.
"My customers are beach vacationers, and to tell you the truth, they're not traveling," he said. "A lot of the boutiques are suffering, and a lot of them have closed."
Salario, whose family has long been in the shoe and leather business, moved out of the space at 3006 W Swann and has shifted his stacks of outlet shoes to his brother's shoe repair shop, the Hyde Park Cobblery. Salario did not make shoes for delivery this year and is spending much of his time in the Midwest as a shoe leather wholesaler.
He said he is waiting out the recession and doesn't expect to take new orders until June 2009. "I've seen it peak and valley before," he said, "but never like this."
Salario's Palm Beach sandal in particular enjoyed a roaring comeback in recent years, as resort clothing became fashionable with stylish parents and their young children. But the preppy craze has waned, he said.
"We've sold a ton of them," Salario said. "But the children's are $60 retail. ... It's a flip flop. Do you need a $60 flip flop for a kid? When times were good, people were buying."
New site not a stretch
Kelly Griffin readily admits that now is "probably not the time to be opening any business anywhere." But her fledgling South Tampa Pilates business had quickly outgrown her home studio, and Griffin decided it was time to rent a space.
"I only had space for one piece of (Pilates) equipment in my home, and I was literally turning clients away," she said. "I was going to have to either expand or stagnate."
Griffin opened last month at 2120 S MacDill Ave., Suite B, in a space that used to be part of the defunct Axxents accessories store. (The other half of the storefront remains empty.) She started South Tampa Pilates in February, and it turns out that her relatively low prices — such as $50 for an hourlong private session — quickly brought in bookings.
Even with the new studio, "I'm keeping (prices) low because of the economy," Griffin said. "I'm finding that even people who can pay $65 and $70 an hour don't want to if they don't have to."
Griffin also offers "duet" classes for two at $35 a person. She plans to start group classes soon. "I'm trying to offer a lower cost alternative for people who need something," she said.
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