Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Pipo's Cuban Cafe to move corporate operations to Midtown

Midtown in St. Petersburg is trending.

First there was a steady flow of artists moving to the area. Now investors and businesses are following suit.

Weeks ago, soon after Mayor Bill Foster announced that Sylvia's Queen of Soul Food Restaurant would be opening in the Manhattan Casino building, we also learned that another private investor, Elihu Brayboy, planned to lease his building at 951 22nd St. S to another restaurant.

That restaurant is Pipo's Cuban Cafe. But to say they're merely opening a restaurant is only half the story. Ramon Hernandez, owner of Pipo's, intends to move the company's corporate operations to the Midtown facility.

"We just felt that there's a need here in St. Pete," Hernandez said. ''There's a market for Cuban food and the people in the area have been so faithful. I think it's a huge market that hasn't been tapped."

Pipo's Cuban Cafe currently has restaurants in Tampa and St. Petersburg, including a downtown location at 437 Central Ave. and another at 9531 Bay Pines Blvd.

"It's a family-run business that has been in Tampa Bay since 1979, and it's moving its central kitchen to Midtown," said an excited Mario Farias, a Pipo's marketing director who grew up in the area.

"That means the entire catering operation will be there," he said, adding that the facility will train chefs and wait staff, preferably from the community.

There will also be a retail location there, serving the restaurant's standard fare.

"This is exciting," said Brayboy, when reached early Friday. "We're very excited about the transition of this building."

The two-story, 10,000-square-foot, historic building is next door to the historic Royal Theater. It will be renovated and should be ready for occupancy in early 2013.

Brayboy said in addition to leasing the 5,000-square-foot first floor, officials at Pipo's have expressed interest in leasing 20 percent of the second floor.

But far more important to Brayboy was Pipo's commitment to hiring ex-offenders.

Both Brayboy and Farias credit St. Petersburg council member Karl Nurse in helping to bring the business to the area.

"Sometimes you get lucky," said Nurse. "I knew Elihu and what he was trying to do, and I knew Pipo's was interested in the area. So I arranged a lunch with them.

This is only the beginning, Nurse said.

"We've got four or five manufacturers who are talking about moving to the area."

Nurse knows that once things start to move, others businesses will quickly follow.

"You do the Manhattan Casino and Brayboy's building, coupled with an investor buying the electrical supply place and the university (St. Petersburg College) breaking ground in October … with that kind of activity going on, you create a sense of momentum," said Nurse.

"It's getting the first couple (of businesses) … that's the hard part," he said.

Nurse said he really likes the plan in place for Pipo's.

"It helps because they don't have to live or die on the immediate success of the restaurant. It lowers their risks."

Hernandez said the facility should be open early next year.

Sandra J, Gadsden can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8874 or on Twitter at @StPeteSandi.


Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18

Another voice: 38 minutes of fear in Hawaii

In 1938, Orson Welles panicked the nation with a false alarm about a Martian invasion in the radio broadcast The War of the Worlds. That was farfetched, of course. But what happened on Saturday, sadly, was not so hard to imagine — or believe.Authorit...
Published: 01/14/18
Updated: 01/16/18
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote...
Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

President Donald Trump’s vulgar outbursts during a White House meeting on immigration are racist and indefensible no matter how he parses them. They are not presidential, they undermine U.S. foreign relations and they do not reflect America’s values....
Published: 01/12/18

Editorial: Pinellas commission stands up for accountability

The Pinellas County Commission has gotten the message that it should not be a rubber stamp. Commissioners sent a clear signal this week they will demand more accountability of local agencies by refusing to approve nominees for the board for CareerSou...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18