ST. PETERSBURG — The bright and airy space inside 1113 Central Ave. has been home to many things over the years: a New Orleans-style restaurant, a crepe concept, a sushi bar, a spot for vegan desserts, a fast-casual Indian hub and a raw bar, for starters.
In its most recent incarnation, Karma Juice Bar and Eatery was the sole remaining tenant. As of last week, that business has moved to a location on Fourth Street N.
Developers say there are much bigger things afoot for the EDGE District space vacated by the Baum Ave Market.
A boutique hotel with several food and beverage concepts will open inside the space, said Jonathan Daou, the co-founder and president of Eastman Equity, who owns the building along with multiple other EDGE District properties.
Daou, who said plans for the hotel are in the early stages and awaiting approval from the city, said the historic building is in need of some renovations. In the interim, neighboring business Intermezzo — in which Daou is a partner with owner Jarrett Sabatini — will remain open. It’s possible that the popular coffee and cocktail spot may move into the space next door once construction is underway, Daou said.
Though Daou wouldn’t reveal much about the new endeavor, he said the hotel will have a strong culinary focus and house several different food and beverage concepts.
Daou said he has always wanted to open a boutique hotel in St. Petersburg and that the shift in his approach is emblematic of the city’s rapidly evolving landscape.
“Baum Avenue Market was part of my overall belief in nurturing small businesses — giving small businesses a chance, collectively,” Daou said. “The space was never really set up to be a food court, so it was never really a long-term viability.”
When Baum Avenue Market opened in 2018, the idea was that it would act as a food hall and incubator for up-and-coming restaurant entrepreneurs — places that needed to start small before branching off on their own. Several local restaurant operators got their starts at the market before launching brick-and-mortar concepts, including Valhalla Bakery, Lucy’s and Twisted Indian.
“Baum Ave. played its role at a time when St. Pete was still not as demographically burdened,” Daou said. “Now we’ve had a lot of growth and all these people are doing very well.”
Karma owner Josie Barber moved her juice, salad and acai bowl business into the market in 2019, after a fire caused heavy damage to her flagship location. When several tenants left the market, shortly after the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, Barber took over the lease for the entire market space herself. She briefly shared the location with her sister, Raquel “Jingle” Baluyut, who operated the short-lived Filipino restaurant Pinoy.
In the end, the market’s large footprint proved too much for Barber’s business.
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“I kind of just focused on surviving and we did,” she said. “I loved the space but it was just too much for me.”
Barber has since taken over a much smaller space formerly home to Clean Juice at 1804 Fourth St. N. She also operates a cafe in Clearwater and, in the coming months, she will open two more Karma locations — one in Trinity, with her sister, and one in a yet-to-be disclosed downtown St. Petersburg space.