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Gourmet, organic market coming to downtown St. Petersburg

The city's abuzz about a new gourmet, organic market coming to downtown St. Petersburg.

Messineo's two-page advertisement in Friday's tbt*/Tampa Bay Times seems like a foodie's dream. Can this possibly be true? The ad, which describes the market's offerings and floor plan, says the new store will be a place "where everyone is considered family!" But Jim Mason, the owner of the market, declined to reveal its precise location.

Mason and Shane Soto, who will manage the 6,000-square-foot market, would say only that it "will be within walking distance of the Pier, the park and BayWalk." The location has another tenant, which will depart in about 30 days, Mason said.

Messineo's will hire 20 to 25 employees and will be open daily. Patrons can place an order via phone or the market's Web site; it will deliver within a 5-mile radius.

"I came up with the concept for the store when I was with Wild Oats," an organic grocery chain that was recently bought out by Whole Foods, said Mason. "The bodegas in New York offer just some of the qualities we wanted to adopt — that our customers would get clean products, including a great quality of meats. This concept was three years in the making."

Messineo's will not have grocery store aisles that most shoppers are accustomed to, but rather lots of counters with helpful staffers, said Mason. The gourmet market will offer a full-service bulk department, with granola, chocolates, dried nuts and fruits, he said.

"We want to use as much locally grown products as we possibly can," he said. "We also want to support our local economy. We're in Florida. We grow everything. Why should we get it from California when we grow everything?"

Mason said he hopes to open the market in the first quarter of 2010, most likely in February.

• • •

Tuesday's election will be a seminal moment for St. Petersburg.

First Deputy Mayor Tish Elston says major challenges and concerns await the new mayor.

No. 1, she said, will be the economy — including the city's revenue, budget and housing and social services.

And while some staffers are worried about whether they will have a job in the new administration, "over time, the new mayor will have to deal with the fact that the city has a lot of employees who will be retirement-eligible in the next five years,'' said Elston.

"A lot of city employees have between 25 to 40 years in; all that talent is going to be retiring," she said. "It will be just that much harder to replace the skill sets that come with all those years of service."

As of Aug. 31, 2009, about 590 of the city's 2,748 full-time city employees were eligible for retirement, said Gary Cornwell, director of human resources. That's roughly 21 percent of the city's workforce.

About 60 of those employees are in management positions, or about 44 percent of the total manager eligible for retirement.

• • •

So, just what is appropriate for a public family event?

That is the question after a young artist was asked to cover up some of her artwork during opening day of Art in the Park at Williams Park on Oct. 24.

In a letter to the Times, Grace Harris of St. Petersburg said that the event organizer, at the request of at least two vendors and a patron, asked that four of her paintings be covered.

She questioned why her work was considered offensive while a painting of a nude woman on the outside of a building at Central Avenue and Beach Drive seems to be fine.

"In a private gallery, it would be fine,'' responded the organizer, Christine Silvia. "These images were not sent to me. If she had (sent them), I would have told her it would be better suited for a private showing."

"The display of blatant genitalia (in Harris' work) at a public event is not acceptable," said Silvia.

Silvia stressed that there are 40 artists in the park who offer beautiful work. Also, this year, Art in the Park is hoping to lure more families with featured activities and offerings, including a book tent, dancers and musicians from the city's recreation department.

"This year, we're really trying to bring in events that provide entertainment for local families. We can't revitalize the park with art alone; we have to provide events."

So what do you think? The works in question — Are you riding the bull?, Small commons, NONSANKA and Mort A Vie — can be viewed on youtube.com on the crazytogab Channel.

Sandra J. Gadsden is editor of Neighborhood Times. She can be reached at (727) 893-8874 or sgadsden@sptimes.com.

Gourmet, organic market coming to downtown St. Petersburg 10/31/09 [Last modified: Saturday, October 31, 2009 5:31am]

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