SOUTH TAMPA — For the second time in less than a year, Whaley's Market has disappeared from the South Tampa scene.
Todd Whaley has departed the gourmet market at 3917 W Kennedy Blvd., which has reverted back to its original concept, Paul's Meats and Seafood.
Whaley partnered with owner Paul Ruel last fall in an effort to re-create a smaller version of Whaley's Market, the 74-year-old family grocery store on Howard Avenue that closed in August.
In October, Whaley moved into Ruel's store, set up his beloved smoker and resurrected many of the favorite Whaley's Market deli recipes. Later he brought in local produce. But business lagged behind expectations, Whaley said.
Last month, Whaley and Ruel parted ways. The Whaley's sign came down two weeks ago.
"The short answer is, the partnership did not work," Whaley said. "We increased business as I thought through the holidays, but we did not get it where it needed to be after the turn of the year."
Ruel did not return a call last week seeking comment.
Whaley said he took his smoker and the famous family recipes with him. He said he would like to find a small place in South Tampa to sell his smoked salmon and barbecue, but the recession will make opening a new market difficult.
"To duplicate the (Howard Avenue) store would be like $750,000," he said. "In this economy, you can't find money like that. It's just impossible. (I'll be) going back to the nitty gritty of maybe selling my barbecue on the side of the street or having a produce market someplace."
Meantime, Whaley is ready to do limited catering, and said he is happy to hear from customers (email@example.com).
Fresh bread up ahead
As the Whaley's name exited Kennedy Boulevard, another Tampa Bay area favorite prepared to move in.
Treasure Island's well-known Cuban sandwich spot, the Floridian, last week opened a smaller version of its restaurant in a 1,000-square-foot storefront at 4424-B W Kennedy. It is the first spinoff of the 16-year-old Floridian, but director of operations Jeremy Simmons said it probably won't be the last.
Simmons said Floridian owner Val Dilar is friends with Harold Seltzer, who until 2002 was one of the owner-operators of the Sam Seltzer's Steakhouse chain. Together Dilar and Seltzer launched a plan to expand the concept well beyond Treasure Island.
"We want to open multiple locations," Simmons said. "We're going to put these up all over Tampa, and send them outward through all the rest of Florida. We're definitely thinking very big."
Simmons said the Floridian is trying to take advantage of an economy where "people are still going to go out and spend their money (eating out), but they're finding cheaper ways to do it." The average meal costs about $7, he said.
The Floridian's menu is centered on its critically acclaimed Cuban sandwich, which is made with bread baked daily in Ybor City. The Cuban coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice will come from local providers, Simmons said. The menu also includes black beans and yellow rice, a variety of sandwiches, a breakfast Cuban and sides like deviled crab and stuffed potatoes.
With only 10 seats inside, the emphasis will be on takeout, delivery and catering. The restaurant's Web site is www.floridianrestaurant.com.
Countdown to Crate and Barrel
It may not match the economic impact of Tampa's new Ikea store, but furniture retailer Crate and Barrel has a loyal fan base eagerly awaiting the debut of its sizable new furniture and accessories showroom at International Plaza.
Crate and Barrel's store at 2201 N West Shore Blvd. is scheduled to open May 21, just 15 days after Ikea opens in Ybor City. At 30,000 square feet, Crate and Barrel will be about a 10th the size of the Ikea, but the store will be two stories and, unlike the retailer's smaller mall stores, will include the company's full collection of furniture and housewares.
Furniture stores are among the economy's worst-performing sectors, thanks to the one-two punch of the real estate downturn and the deep nationwide recession. But Crate and Barrel spokeswoman Vicki Lang said the "classic, clean, contemporary look" is well-suited for Florida, and thanks to years of catalog mailings the company already has plenty of local customers.
"Real estate decisions are long-term decisions," Lang said. "We in particular are always very cautious and do our homework before we enter a market. ... We know we have a very strong customer base (in the Tampa Bay area) that is interested in our full collection."
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