TAMPA — This week the marquee over Datz's new Dough bakery says "Slightly Open." Its official debut is Monday.
Since Datz opened in 2009 it has been in a constant process of reinvention: ditch the gourmet vinegars and fancy cheeses, add an ambitious cocktail program, shift toward gastropub fare. Most of the changes have been met with uniform approval, but one complaint has been constant: There's not enough parking.
There it was out the window — flat, lined, gray. Datz owners Suzanne and Roger Perry saw it every day. Kalupa's Bakery's parking lot was tantalizingly out of reach. As any South Tampa restaurateur will tell you, without a big lot and/or the ability to offer valet, your kitchen staff may be brushing up on their bridge game.
Mike and Susan Kalupa had their bakery on Neptune Street for 25 years before moving to S MacDill Avenue nine years ago. Maybe it didn't keep up with current tastes, maybe it's because they quit wholesaling, but Kalupa's was in trouble. In December the Perrys swooped in, buying the business and equipment, offering the staff continued employment, keeping Mike Kalupa on as a consultant.
"We had to have parking to survive. And if someone else had bought Kalupa's," explains Suzanne, "it could have been World War III."
Wars have been started over sillier things. But now the Perrys owned a parking lot … and a bakery.
On its own, Datz is no small project.
"We did $6 million last year," says Roger. "It's one thing if your average check is $75. Ours is $22. We see 1,000 customers on a Sunday in a five-hour period."
With that kind of volume, the Perrys spent $15,000 a month on bread, $5,000 on cakes. They went through 1,000 hamburger buns a week. Now all of that will be made at Dough, with Alex Flannery, former pastry chef at the Refinery, hired six weeks ago to preside over the bakery.
But that's not all Dough does.
"With Dough, we're trying not to compete with ourselves," Suzanne says over a Nutella latte. She goes on to draw distinctions: Everything at Datz is big. There's a lot of bacon. There are a lot of throw-calorie-caution-to-the wind comfort foods. The Idaho Potato Commission has just asked Datz to be its poster child, based on its weekly 3,000-pound habit.
Then the self-described "spud queen" goes on to describe Dough's agenda. Grab-and-go pastries and breakfast in the morning; ladies-who-lunch staples like chicken salad on mixed greens at lunch; swanky date-night desserts and dessert wines in the evening. Sizes are smaller. Presentations are a little more refined. There's still a lot of bacon.
In a building that is pure whimsy, part MacKenzie-Childs fanciful design, part Alice in Wonderland, there are trays of doughnuts, savory cheddar-tomato bread puddings, delicate tartines of smoked salmon. Oh, and bacon lattes, bacon éclairs and bacon chocolate chip cookies. Readying Dough for its grand opening, chef Flannery, former Kalupa's bread baker Gustavo Grijalva and Datz culinary manager Andy King swirl around the pink-and-persimmon room while workmen put the finishing touches on Dough's private-dining Copper Room.
But that's still not all that's going on.
Longtime local caterer Laura Schmalhorst (A La Carte Pavilion, Chefs on the Loose) has been hired to head up Datz's new catering division, Dazzle. Despite doing regular charity events and large-scale catering such as the Republican National Convention, catering business is stymied somewhat by Datz's reputation for meatloaf and oversized sandwiches. That's not what the average bride is looking for on her special day.
Says Roger wryly, "People don't think about Datz and ice sculpture in the same breath."
Indeed, weddings, the big money in catering, is all about dazzle. Bakery, private parties, large-scale catering — and all because the Perrys coveted a parking lot.
Laura Reiley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter.