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Downtown upswing



The Galleria of Pierce Harbor

The Galleria of Pierce Harbor promises to be a bright spot on the downtown landscape for shoppers and diners. ED DRONDOSKI PHOTO

New businesses contributing to area’s renaissance

BY PATTIE DURHAM

When is the last time you thought about spending time shopping or dining in Downtown Fort Pierce? There’s nothing down there, you say? Not so fast, there are several new businesses in place and things are stirring along the streets; new things that should bring smiles to the faces of residents and visitors alike.

There is the soon-to-be-opened Galleria of Pierce Harbor, that will offer a number of small boutique stores, cafes and restaurants. There also is a stir about the possibility of a restaurant or pub taking over the former St. Lucie County Bank offices across from the Sunrise Theatre.

Although some of these are still in the developmental stage, Galleria tenants have started to move into their quarters at the former First Federal/Harbor Federal building on Orange Avenue at South Second Street. And and Sailfish Brewery is moving full-speed ahead at its new location in the former J.C. Penney building. Brewery equipment is already in place, enabling the craft brewers to make dozens and dozens more gallons of their tasty brews. Sailfish Brewery still has its original spot at 407 N. Second St., in the Edgartown district of the city. The new location at the northeast corner of Avenue A and North Second Street will feature an open-air patio for its craft brew admirers, along with an indoor pub area.

If you’ve got a bit of the Irish in you, O’Sullivan’s Pub is sharing space with The Pint Brush, a sipping and painting spot on Avenue A, just west of the P.P. Cobb building. A bar stocked with local craft beers along with Irish cousins, Guinness, Harp and Smithwick’s and some organic wines, takes up part of the small storefront filled with tables and chairs, along with more comfortable seating near the windows. Small metal tables and chairs sit outside to accommodate an overflow crowd, which usually happens after the monthly Friday Fest. Rivertown, a musical group that features Gerald O’Sullivan on guitar and harmonica, Margarida Pereira Tree on mandolin, Rebecca Belcher on bass and Max Duhalde on drums, performs Irish and folk ballads and rousing songs.

The storefront at 116 Avenue A, according to owner O’Sullivan, is also home to The Pint Brush, where customers can come and paint while sipping drinks from the bar. O’Sullivan, who taught art for four years at Indian River State College, hails from County Clare, Ireland. Shortly after moving to the United States eight years ago, he married Margarida, a fellow bandmate and owner-operator of the adjacent One Yoga Planet studio.

“We (Rivertown) are trying to add another date per month (to play at the pub),” O’Sullivan says. “We also will bring in some other Irish-type bands or groups with folk roots.”

The address started out as a vegetarian restaurant, O’Sullivan adds, but the city required the installation of a grease trap. Due to the cost, the couple decided not to serve food, began the popular paint-and-sip classes, then decided to form their band, so the Irish pub became a natural evolution.

Meanwhile, back at the Galleria of Pierce Harbor, the first shop to open for business is The Cabin, a shop for gentlemen. It offers a variety of items: clothing, backpacks, handmade shoes, briefcases, exclusive lines of shaving products and colognes along with gorgeous shaving utensils, stationery, hats and other items for the discerning gentleman. With a range from business to casual, manager Breann Sommer says the shop has something for everyone.

“The Cabin is a gentlemen’s store,” she says, “with high-quality items and vintage items as well, all are perfect for a special gift.”

Soon to open is Sportslane, a sportswear boutique offering Sperry Topsiders, Vans and other sneaker type shoes as well as gym clothes and sports accessories, according to co-owners Chris Henao and Davidson Henao.

Coming soon are Brooklyn Sweets, in which Ethel King will offer chocolates, cappuccinos and ice cream; Harbor Café, where Marie Angela Franco will sell sandwiches, smoothies and healthy salads; The Art of Jewelry, where goldsmith Oscar Rivero and his wife, Christina, will sell handcrafted jewelry; an organic steakhouse, which will have indoor and courtyard seating; and a farm-to-table restaurant with an indoor courtyard and outdoor seating.

Other tenants being sought, include a gentlemen’s barber, qualified to do professional hair and beard-care, including shaving, and a womens boutique. Shops can be accessed by entering the lobby of the galleria. A graceful stairway takes you from the terrazzo-floored lobby to the second-floor shops. A few of the ground-floor shops can be entered from the street.

At the nearby One Eleven Building, formerly the St. Lucie County/SunTrust Bank, Steve Tarr has opened The Art Market, a series of small galleries that winds around the upper floor of the building where artists can display and sell their works. The Art Market slogan, according to Tarr, is “See Art, Buy Art, and Make Art.” The remodeled building also houses a 24-hour fitness center, Anytime Fitness of Fort Pierce.

The other section of the L-shaped building is not leased yet. Tarr says that due to its location, directly across the street from the entrance to the Sunrise Theatre, he visualizes a pub or a restaurant/entertainment business in this property.

“I would like to find someone who will preserve the history of the building,” Tarr says. “I’d love for a business to go in there and retain the exterior and some of the interior.”

Tarr adds that a return to the 2-hour parking limits in the city should help local businesses grow. The city-owned parking lot on Indian River Drive between Orange Avenue and Avenue A is limited to 2-hour parking Monday-Friday from 8-5 p.m. Anytime Fitness Gym members appreciate that, Tarr says. And other businesses will as well.

Karen Kane, of Karen Kane Interiors & Bed, Bath, Kitchen, at 201 N. Second St., has weathered the ups and downs of downtown shopping traffic for most of the 42 years she has been in business.

“I rented my first store space from H.B. Moore,” Kane says, “It was in a little building he owned across U.S. 1 from the new federal courthouse. The rent was $500 a month and I had already had two car loans, so a loan officer at SunTrust Bank gave me a $500 loan for the first month’s rent. I opened Bed, Bath & Kitchen. I moved to the malls during the years I have been in business, but in 1997 I came back to downtown and I have been here ever since.”

When she first moved to her current location, a lot of work had to be done. It was Zelmo’s Coffee Shop back then, she says, and the windows were painted dark green and it was sort of a mess inside.

“We cleaned it all out and removed the paint from the windows,” Kane says. “And we have been here ever since. We have a lot of return customers and we do get a lot of word-of-mouth advertising. We are seeing an uptick in street traffic.”

And with all the new businesses coming to downtown, this uptick in street traffic should continue.