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Indian Rocks Beach landmark is getting a new life

St. Pete Beach has the Don CeSar. Tampa has the minarets of the University of Tampa.

This city of 4,000 has well, Pueblo Village.

From the outside, you may wonder what's so special about this building. It has sat empty for six years, collecting dust and falling apart. It sort of looks out of place among the immaculate beachfront homes lining Gulf Boulevard.

But Pueblo Village is a landmark, one of the first businesses to open here. It once was the heartbeat of this city, and Lou Ateek hopes it can be again.

"I stood in the doorway of what was presented to be a dark, musty friend," Ateek said. "Immediately I envisioned this grandam of Indian Rocks Beach with a facelift and smiling again."

Pueblo Village, which originally housed a fine men's clothing store, closed in 1989 but is coming back to life.

Ateek is renovating this property at 1412 Gulf Blvd. into an antique mall with collectibles, furniture, jewelry, china and vintage clothing for sale. It will be divided into 31 vendor spaces. Beach Bird's Cafe serves dinner in the right corner of the building and will add lunch when the antique mall opens in mid-August.

Inspired by a trip to New Mexico, brothers Joe and Bill McNally opened the store in 1956 with a western adobe-style architecture.

"When we first heard it was going to be built, everyone was so excited because we didn't have a lot of businesses," said Avril Finke, who moved here in 1951. The city was incorporated in 1954. "When they opened, they were the No. 1 store on the beach."

"They had the best men's clothes and name-brand sportswear for women," Finke said. "All the tourists and local people came to the store.

"There was a small amount of parking. People would wait until someone came out and moved so they could get a space. Most had to park down the road and walk back."

A country store and restaurant known for its barbecue ribs and sauce soon followed. They sold 6-inch-wide wagon wheel sandwiches "crammed with ham and roast beef," huge ice-cream cones and "the best apple pie," Finke said.

Ateek says the new store will maintain much of its old flavor, selling old-fashioned candy, ice cream and southwest pottery. Gourmet coffee will add a '90s flair.

Missing will be the life-sized wooden Indian out front and the room full of monkeys inside, both big attractions at Pueblo Village in its heyday. After several wild chases down Gulf Boulevard to recapture the monkeys, the owners decided the animals were more trouble than they were worth.