Make us your home page

Pickles Deli celebrates milestone as Harborview Center location faces uncertain future


Here's what's on the menu these days at Pickles Deli: free birthday cake and uncertainty about its future.

The downtown Clearwater mainstay is marking its 10th anniversary in the Harborview Center by offering complimentary cake to lunchtime customers through January.

At the same time, the family-owned restaurant's future is up in the air because the city plans to close the Harborview Center in March and probably demolish it soon afterward.

Because Pickles' lease in the publicly owned building continues for another 11 years, Clearwater is in talks with the deli about helping it locate somewhere else downtown — possibly in one of the vacant storefronts along Cleveland Street — but the deli is not eager to move.

Pickles is celebrating a decade of serving up pastrami sandwiches and potato pancakes at the scenic spot overlooking Clearwater Harbor. It's the kind of place where many of the servers have been working for years, and know all the regulars.

"I know what I am getting," said longtime customer John Ardolino, "and they know what I'm getting, too."

Kim Benedettini, who owns the restaurant with her brother Joe, said the goal is to create a warm, inviting atmosphere for a loyal clientele.

"We've always believed in downtown Clearwater," she said. "When we first saw this location, we jumped on it."

The downtown restaurant is actually called Positively Pickles Plus Too. It's the second Pickles Deli. The original remains at 2530 N McMullen-Booth Road, and it's not going anywhere.

The current owners' parents, Joe and Renee Benedettini, opened the first Pickles with some friends in 1989, coming up with a menu of New York, Chicago and Philadelphia-style offerings.

"My father was in the construction business. In the '80s, there really wasn't anything in that quadrant on McMullen that had sandwiches. My mother said, 'Why not? Let's give it a shot,' " said their daughter Kim, who recalls taste-testing the deli's original recipes.

Kim and her brother Joe continued the family tradition by opening in the Harborview Center a decade ago — thus the 10-year celebration going on for the next month. Aside from the free slices of birthday cake (first-come, first-served), the deli will also randomly give away one free lunch every day.

But now the Harborview is reaching the end of the road.

Clearwater is closing the makeshift convention center because it can no longer afford to subsidize its operations, which cost the city about $350,000 a year.

The building's main tenant, a Stein Mart department store, closed in September. The final event inside the center is scheduled for March.

Clearwater is negotiating with Pickles to settle the restaurant's lease and offer it financial incentives to relocate, said assistant city manager Rod Irwin.

"They're an established restaurant. They like their view. They like the ease of parking," Irwin said. "But the City Council is intent on demolishing the building, so staying there is not an option."

Relocating could be a gamble for Pickles. There's no guarantee that all of its clientele would follow it to Cleveland Street — not even for corned beef sandwiches and matzo ball soup.

Parking also could be an issue.

Although it's not a widely known fact, there is essentially free parking available downtown in the public garage on Garden Avenue. Virtually all of the surrounding businesses will validate customers' parking stubs for two hours of complimentary parking.

But that's not as good as Pickles' current setup, where it enjoys having the Harborview's 107-spot parking lot at its door.

For now, negotiations between the city and the deli continue.

"Nothing has been decided," Kim Benedettini said, "but all lines of communication are open."

Mike Brassfield can be reached at or (727) 445-4160.

Pickles Deli celebrates milestone as Harborview Center location faces uncertain future 12/30/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 30, 2009 7:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally


    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members


    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  3. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion


    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  4. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]
  5. Trigaux: Tampa Bay health care leaders wary of getting too far ahead in disruptive times


    Are attempts to repeal Obamacare dead for the foreseeable future? Might the Affordable Care Act (ACA), now in dire limbo, be revived? Will Medicaid coverage for the most in need be gutted? Can Republicans now in charge of the White House, Senate and House ever agree to deliver a substitute health care plan that people …

    Natalia Ricabal of Lutz, 12 years old, joined other pediatric cancer patients in Washington in July to urge Congress to protect Medicaid coverage that helped patients like Ricabal fight cancer. She was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in 2013 and has undergone extensive treatments at BayCare's St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa. [Courtesy of BayCare]