1. Hillsborough

YEAR IN REVIEW: From the 'Heights' to the waterfront, South and Central Tampa businesses enjoy a successful 2018

With the year rapidly coming to an end, South and Central Tampa's businesses can look back on a successful year of growth.

In 2018, South and Central Tampa residents saw new small businesses rise in Seminole Heights, larger chain restaurants spring up along S Dale Mabry Highway and

Hyde Park Village continue its revival as a retail shopping destination.

The Ciccio Restaurant Group enjoyed an expansion in SoHo, Tampa Heights blossomed with the inclusion of Armature Works.

Finally, Sparkman Wharf closed out the year with a bang and WestShore Plaza announced plans to add a grocery store, condos and retail to the space vacated by Sears.

Some of the ubiquitous trends I noticed from week to week included the heavy focus on anything local, the references and appreciation for Tampa's history, and the city's increased emphasis on waterfront dining.

After all this is Tampa Bay right?

And who doesn't love enjoying seafood or a cocktail by the water?

Waterside hotels like the Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel and the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel underwent massive, million dollar renovations to its pool deck areas to include full bars and kitchens offering small, poolside bites and entrees.

In addition, The Sail Pavilion's active renovations at the Tampa Convention Center are worth a mention, and of course we can't forget the massive crowds of downtowners, bicyclers, pet-owners, boat riders and more drawn daily to Armature works for a quick snack or meal, or the buzz generated from the aforementioned Sparkman Wharf.

And the water isn't only for fun dining, people also want to party by the water. Although American Social opened at the end of 2017, it ignited Tampa's fun dining and waterfront party scene. The WTR Pool & Grill opened in the summer along Courtney Campbell Causeway.

It makes you think what took Tampa so long? I guess it's better late than never.

Another popular South Tampa trend is its huge local emphasis. Small businesses are winning.

Places like local gourmet popcorn shop, Chef Inspired Popcorn Co., or The Dessert Spot at Toffee to Go on Bay to Bay Blvd, or Seminole Heights' The C House, which hasn't slowed down since its opening in March, indicate independent success.

The ever-popular Blind Tiger Cafe, which opened its third South Tampa location this year and also partners with other small, local businesses stands as another great example.

Other notable mentions: Seminole Heights' Modernesian Kava Social, The Nest Neighborhood and Nueva Cantina, adding to the activity in the Gandy corridor.

Tampa natives, residents and business owners also tend too look out for their own and have a sense of pride in the city.

A number of businesses showcase the artwork of various local artists such as Franklin on Twiggs, Davis Islands' Pascal's Artisan Bistro & Gourmet Coffee, and even Ybor's Chillum Glass Gallery and CBD Dispensary.

Other businesses also made it a point to showcase Tampa's and its rich history like The Paper Seahorse, which opened a second location this year in Ybor City, the restoration of the historic Orlo House in Davis Islands as an elegant event venue, and the enhanced Nebraska Mini-Mart in Seminole Heights popular in the 1950s.

South and Central Tampa does local right.

Kelly Flannery, the president and CEO of The South Tampa Chamber of Commerce, attributes this year's success partly to the area's central location and its prideful, historic neighborhoods and businesses that have been here for years.

"South Tampa is a hustling, bustling place to be, and it's the heart of Tampa Bay," Flannery said.

"Each neighborhood has its own personality. If you look at where we're situated, we're a short drive to the airport, the beaches, and basically everything.

"Being centrally located and the fact that you have to drive through this area to get to any part of the region, makes us a very marketable area for business owners."

Contact Monique Welch at or Follow Mo_UNIQUE_ .