As Forrest Shaw walks into Pastry Art from the office upstairs, passing the stainless steel Grimac espresso machine, he shakes hands with a regular customer.
Shaw can’t make it more than 5 feet between the café’s wooden tables before saying hello and chatting with another regular.
He has come to know most of the loyal regulars at Pastry Art — the downtown café former Mayor Mary Anne Servian describes as “the closest space to a Sarasota public square.”
“Everything has been debated there, from the strong mayor proposal to the height of buildings,” said Servian, who first “cut her teeth” as a commission candidate outside Pastry Art Saturday mornings as the regular coffee klatch would discuss big city issues.
But, after owning Pastry Art for five years, April 30, Shaw sold the café to Chip and Katie Beeman, who own two local eateries, The Main Bar and Sandwich Shop, on Main Street, in Sarasota, and Katie’s Café, on State Road 70, in Bradenton.
Shaw said his wife, Alex Davis-Shaw, and he decided it was a good time to sell because the couple wants to be able to spend more time with their daughter, Akila.
“She is 11 years old and that was a big impetus for being ready (to sell),” Shaw said.
Shaw said the family will be able to take a few vacations now, something that was difficult while running Pastry Art. He will also go back to his previous career — this time as a freelancer — working with businesses as an Internet marketing consultant.
When Chip Beeman heard Pastry Art might be available for purchase, he immediately wanted to set up a meeting with Shaw.
Because, the meeting was set up through a third party, Shaw, didn’t initially know the Beemans were interested in purchasing the business. He felt they would be a perfect fit to run the café.
“That night when Chip and Katie came over with a third party, it was a reunion at the front door,” Shaw said. “We’ve been going to the Main Bar and enjoying the Famous Italian since 1989.”
Beeman took ownership May 1. The new owner said he has to learn the “moving parts” of the café, including the Grimac espresso machine, which was in need of a repaired steam wand last week.
Shaw will stay on at the café for a month to teach Beeman some of those moving parts, and there are veteran baristas on hand to help.
But, the most important skill the new owner must learn could take some time.
“This guy knows everyone,” says Beeman of Shaw while at Pastry Art last Thursday. “I have to start writing down all the names.”
Shaw has become a mainstay since 1994 at Pastry Art, an institution downtown where locals come to talk politics and politicians come to hear from locals.
Servian said she was relieved to hear that another local owner would be taking over the café.
“I would not be happy if it was going to some major chain or someone from the outside,” Servian said.
John Lucado, who visits Pastry Art a few times a week for the coffee, almond logs and conversation, said he will miss seeing Shaw around the café on a regular basis, although he will probably spot Shaw from time to time — albeit on the other side of the counter.
“Of course, I’ll be popping into Pastry Art as time permits,” Shaw said. “I have to stop in and say ‘hi’ to everyone, and we do have the best coffee in town, so I plan to continue to buy my coffee from the best. My wife had been raving about Pastry Art coffee long before we owned it, and she continues her morning pilgrimage.”
Shaw, a proponent of a possible project to bring a streetcar to downtown Sarasota, also plans to stay involved in the grassroots organization, Sarasota Streetcar Initiative, and local politics.
Lucado agrees with Servian that it was good news a local owner is taking over.
“It’s important that our small businesses downtown keep their local flavor,” Lucado said.
Frequent customer Mark Sarason comes in to read magazines in Pastry Art’s comfy, brown leather chair by the front window. He isn’t a fan of franchises.
Sarason said he thinks the new owners “care about what happens to Sarasota” because they already own an independent eatery downtown.
Beeman said he plans to bring over a few specialty sandwiches from the Main Bar — including the Famous Italian and the Aztec. Other than that, the Pastry Art menu — and the coffee — will remain the same.
However, some changes will be coming to the café’s outdoor seating. After the city wraps up its first phase of a $1.9 million sidewalk improvement project in June, which will expand the seating area in front of Pastry Art, there will be space to add about five more tables outside, Beeman said.
Also, the Beemans plan to make the area non-smoking, so more patrons can enjoy the space. Beeman has already ordered a new set of outside tables.
Coming to Pastry Art:
Salami, ham, provolone cheese, tomatoes, chopped peppers, onions and a unique blend
of oil, garlic and spices on a toasted bun $7.25
Thinly-sliced roast beef, with provolone cheese and jalapeno dressing served on a kaiser roll and topped with tomatoes, lettuce and onions $8.25
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Fans cheered on their favorite bands Saturday at Rock for a Cause.