LARGO — The cafe space at the entrance to the Largo Public Library soon will begin a metamorphosis — from its currently vacated state as the former site of the Bookmark Cafe, to its re-branding under new operators.
Henceforth, it will be R.G.'s Bookmark Cafe.
The renovation plan was approved Wednesday night by the Largo City Commission.
The new owners, father-and-son team Bill and Nicholas Pastis, have ambitious goals to boot — so ambitious, their planned renovation of the space requires $35,000 of their own money.
It's an investment that both the owners and library staff believe will benefit everyone.
"We're going to make it a real fun atmosphere," said Bill Pastis, 62, who has owned or managed restaurants since the 1970s.
He is currently the owner of R.G.'s, just north of Belleair Road on Highland Avenue in Clearwater.
"What you put into the community is what you will get back out of it," he said.
Assisting him is son Nicholas, 38, who has a degree from the Culinary Institute of America in New York. After he graduated, the younger Pastis spent a decade as a chef at restaurants throughout Disney's expansive collection of establishments in Orlando.
Nicholas Pastis' experience at Disney put the duo's application over the top.
That experience, says library director Casey McPhee, will elevate the cafe to perhaps a destination in itself.
"He comes from a Disney background. They understand that good customer service keeps customers coming back. They understand the aspect of show," McPhee said.
The remodeling of the cafe space will include retiling the walls and installing new counter space, with a layout reminiscent of a Subway, Bill Pastis said.
Additionally, the family plans to host events on the weekends for kids and parents, serving barbecue-type items outdoors along with other activities.
The new owners say it will take them about five years to recoup costs — but they hope to be long-term tenants.
The elder Pastis said when he was approached by a Greater Largo Library Foundation member to enter a bid, he was unsure about the prospects.
"I said, 'A sandwich in a library?' " Pastis recalled. "Then I went in there, and I was floored."
With about 900,000 visits each year to the library, Pastis said the opportunity turned out to be worth the investment and time it takes to start a business. He got his son on board, and didn't look back.
"When an opportunity like this knocks, you can't pass it up," he said.
The new cafe could open as soon as mid December.
Dominick Tao can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 580-2951.