ST. PETERSBURG — Beyond the rutted parking lot of a faded shopping center that once housed a Sears outlet, a supermarket and a movie theater, a treasure trove of vintage and handcrafted finds can be discovered amid a warren of color-coded booths.
Mid-century modern furniture is displayed on oriental rugs. There are paintings, quilts, ceramics, record albums, jewelry and vintage toys. A booth near the entrance displays garments from Africa, Thailand and India. In the back, a tattoo artist works into the night.
This is Skyway Marina Vintage Mall. Craving attention at 4301 34th St. S, the cluster of businesses embodies the hopes of close to five dozen vendors and is the new home for some after the 49er Flea Market closed in Pinellas Park.
Michael Bonaddio of Round Again Resale helps manage the 18-month-old enterprise, whose neighbors include a McDonald’s and an Ace Hardware store. He specializes in refurbished vintage and mid-century modern furniture, antiques and collectibles and is optimistic about the mall’s prospects.
“I started out with a 500-square-foot store and expanded to 1,000 square feet,” he said, sitting in a tucked-away office in his store, which like other spaces in the quaint hodgepodge of shops, benefits from expandable walls.
“I was one of the first people to come in here,” he said.
At the time, the expansive space was on its last throes as the Skyway Mall, a catchall of stalls offering everything from jewelry to soul food. The roof leaked. Bonaddio, who runs his business with partner Brian Smith, is hopeful about the latest iteration.
“We have a new restaurant getting ready to sign here,” he said, adding that he is thinking of instituting late night shopping to coincide with the restaurant’s hours.
Lisa Lippincott, a retired graphic designer who owns Wood Paper Stone Highly-Curated Treasures, once had a contemporary art gallery on Central Avenue and is among the mall’s vendors.
Adam Rezendes of Red Rooster Antiques, moved from Rhode Island about nine months ago. He sells items ranging from $10 to $500 and higher. A Moser covered punch bowl and cups from Austria dating back to the 1890’s is one of his prized offerings.
It’s where Shauna Danford, a St. Petersburg native, runs Pretti Tattoos, her first business. “I’m busy all the time,” she said, adding that news of her shop has spread “by word of mouth and social media.”
There’s also a nail salon, barber, beautician and shops that offer custom sewing and alterations and jewelry repair.
Brenda Coley, owner of 50-60’s Blast from the Past, works with Bonaddio to run the vintage mall.
“We want to get people to know where we are at,” she said.
One recent morning, Jake Radojcsics and his wife, Cathy, were preparing for the opening of their new shop, Flashback. The couple lives near Pinellas Point, one of the surrounding neighborhoods.
“We are selling mid-century furniture and furnishings,” Cathy Radojcsics said this week. “We have been collecting for the last five years.”
The vintage shops represent yet another attempt to rejuvenate the property once known as Maximo Mall. A Kash n’ Karry grocery store closed in 1993. A Sears outlet, Big Lots and Bass shoe outlet also once thrived in the shopping center at 34th Street S, between 43rd and 44th avenues S. Other businesses came and went, including a new and used furniture store, MoKart Moretti Indoor Karting, and more recently, U-Haul.
The forlorn plaza currently includes a Christian bookstore, a store-front church and an Ace Hardware.
The sprawling property has two owners. According to the Pinellas County Property Appraiser, Maximo Plaza Inc. of Santa Monica, Calif., owns most of the property, including the space occupied by the vintage mall. The smaller section, according to the Florida Department of Corporations, is owned by John-Mary Enterprises Ltd., with Mary Josephine Castro and Christopher R. Castro of Tampa as general partners. It is where the Kash n’ Karry was located.
Recently a couple of homeless people and their belongings have found refuge on the perimeter of the neglected shopping center. James Corbett, St. Petersburg’s director of codes compliance assistance, said the city does not have any active cases against the property.
“The two owners have done what is required to bring the various violations into compliance, but we will likely find new violations, as this is an ongoing process,” he said in an email.
Citations in the past year against Maximo Plaza Inc. have included sign violations, parking lot maintenance, outdoor storage, peeling paint, zoning violations, stagnant water and fence and wall disrepair, Corbett said.
“We would love to see the owners reface the plaza, upgrade it,” Bonaddio said.
Les and Susan Claycomb, who own Memory Lane Antiques, have seen some improvements.
“In the last year, we have finally gotten to where the landscaping is being taken care of on a regular basis. The cleanliness of the place has increased,” said Les Claycomb, who has high hopes for the mall.
Memory Lane Antiques, forced to move from a location on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street N when the property was sold, “brought a tremendous clientele” to its new spot on 34th Street S, Claycomb said. “We still have people finding us through the internet, Facebook and ads in antique magazines.”
‘’It’s starting to pick up a little bit, because people didn’t know we were here,” said Linda Denison of Lin Beau, who sells T-shirts, lamps, collectibles, bingo supplies and other items. A former 49er, some old customers have found her, Denison said.
But Gwendolyn S. Fields, who retired from the Library of Congress as a librarian, appears to have persevered right there in the neighborhood.
She moved to St. Petersburg in 2004 and set up her business selling African art and attire, handmade jewelry and carvings. Her first shop was at a flea market in the closed Kmart nearby. When that ended, she tried again at what was then the Skyway Mall. She’s now settled in at the Skyway Marina Vintage Mall.
From her prime spot at the entrance she said, “Things are positive so far.”
Contact Waveney Ann Moore at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.