Whitney Beach Plaza shoppers have seen the sign before at 6810 Gulf of Mexico Drive. “CLOSED,” it reads in bold letters. “Thank you for your support. Dawn and Andrew.”
Plaza owner Andrew Hlywa hung the sign in May 2008, when he closed The Market. Now the sign is back in the building’s window because Hlywa closed Longboat Key Liquors, which was operating out of the 10,000-square-foot space Sunday, Aug. 8. But this time, Hlywa said, he is leaving Longboat Key business behind for good.
“Goodbye to all, friends, not friends, the famous town people of Longboat Key,” Hlywa wrote in a letter to The Longboat Observer. Thanks for all the over-regulating, the antiquated laws, the sign code, all the restrictions, the 10 extra toilets ... Thanks for helping in my demise here on the Key.” (See sidebar below)
But he won’t be ending his role as a Key landlord just yet. Hlywa is still the owner of the 35,000-square-foot plaza, which is currently under contract with a real-estate investor whose client wants to open a gourmet grocery store in the location through a commercial short sale negotiated by Tina Rudek, of Engel & Völkers Longboat Key.
Rudek was not available for comment Tuesday, but Engel & Völkers Longboat Key/Anna Maria broker/President Ray Alexander confirmed that the property remains under contract.
“We’re continuing to work at it, but like any short sale, we have to continue to slug it out,” Alexander said.
Alexander said that the property is currently in a due-diligence period, during which the buyer will perform various inspections and could close within 60 days.
Meanwhile, Hlywa said that he is relieved he is no longer in business on the Key. In his letter, he details his investment in Longboat Key, which began in 1999, when he purchased the building at 5610 Gulf of Mexico Drive. He went on to get involved with the community, serving on the board of directors of what was then the Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce and the Longboat Key Fire Rescue Board.
Then, in 2002, he and his partner, Dawn diLorenzo paid $2.5 million for the shopping center and opened and later closed The Market, Whitney Beach Deli & Wines and Longboat Key Liquors.
Hlywa says he has lost $1 million on Whitney Beach Plaza, and his future plans are unclear. But those plans aren’t likely to involve Longboat Key.
“I really can’t wait to drive off the island and never look back,” he said.
In his own words
The following excerpts are taken from Andrew Hlywa’s Aug. 8 letter to The Longboat Observer:
… on the Plaza:
“At 5610 Gulf of Mexico Drive is where my partner discovered fire ants, when she knelt in a nest when we were trying to beautify the property. We replaced the sod only to have the trucks visiting the Food Mart destroy the grass. I put up my first illegal sign.”
… on buying Whitney Beach Plaza:
“What a mess! Almost everything I tried to do was not permitted…Can’t do that!”
… on The Market
“It worked OK for a while, but there were mistakes. Were the prices too high, not the right brands? And, of course, we were not the major food chain on the island. But, my partner and I had a dream. But, after we worked 15 hours a day for almost three years, I gave up. The dream died and The Market closed.”
… on Whitney Beach Deli & Wines
“The liquor store/bar were not permitted at the other side of the parking lot. After many lengthy discussions with the Planning, Zoning & Building Department, they agreed to sign off on our liquor license to be moved across the parking lot.
However this action set off a new series of issues.
The building department with the fire department found additional laws to be complied with. Required were firewalls, roof to floor, separating the liquor store from the bar.
The restrooms had to be increased from the two handicap (ones) that were in the building, when it was The Market, to now 10 more to handle the 400-person capacity, because the building was big despite the fact there were only a total 109 seats — bar and tables combined.
Then, the sign that was permitted with The Market was now too big on the front of the building. This I found out only after I had the sign repainted the sign to read Whitney Beach Deli, Longboat Liquor.”
Contact Robin Hartill at firstname.lastname@example.org.