With the official grand opening of Kahwa Coffee, new development and demographics downtown are luring businesses from Tampa Bay.
Sarasota Mayor Willie Shaw served as an honorary barista this morning, slinging java during Kahwa Coffee’s official grand opening.
It may be the first of several Tampa Bay concepts to open downtown, thanks to a shifting perception of the area, said Kahwa co-owner Raphael Perrier.
“You just look around and see the changes that are going on,” Perrier said. “It reminds me of when we moved to St. Pete 10 years ago.”
Atlanta-based development firm Carter has broken ground on 180 apartments less than 10 feet west of Kawha, which is located at 1487 Second St. The firm plans to price those new residences at between $1,000 and $2,000 per month.
Perrier said he thinks there will be a lot more full-time residents moving into the downtown area this year, which could spur more "hip" Tampa Bay brands to look toward Sarasota.
“You can see it — and feel it,” Perrier said.
While the St. Petersburg-based coffee chain has been open since the week of Christmas, fellow Bay Area business Cask & Ale will host a community meeting Feb. 18, to discuss plans for an upscale cocktail bar and restaurant at 1548 Main St. Taco Bus — also a Tampa Bay original — previously hoped to open in that space.
“I think the word is out about Sarasota,” said Downtown Economic Development Coordinator Norm Gollub. "With all the new development going on in and around downtown and certainly the diverse demographic profile, it's highly appealing to any retail or restaurant business.”
Just a few blocks south of Kahwa, Boca Kitchen Bar & Grill, a farm-to-table restaurant based in the Hyde Park area of Tampa, has filed plans to open a 2,500-square-foot eatery on North Lemon Avenue next to Brooks Brothers.
"Lots of Sarasota residents come to the Tampa location and have asked us to bring Boca Kitchen Bar & Market down to Sarasota,” said Lydia Lopez, director of sales and marketing at Be-1 Concepts, which owns Boca. "We love Sarasota and Boca fits in well with the art community and health conscious-trending audience.”
Gollub said there’s certainly room for more neighbors from the large metro area to the north, according to a study conducted in 2014 by city consultant Robert Gibbs. That analysis contends downtown could support 96,300 square feet of new restaurant and retail development.
"By 2019, continued hotel and residential development coupled with income growth will increase demand to support 113,900 square feet of total commercial growth, generating up to $46.7 million in sales,” the study states.
Sarah Perrier, Raphael Perrier's wife and co-owner of Kahwa, said she has a friend who recently moved from St. Pete to Sarasota — and the couple thinks more Bay Area businesses moving to the area could help bridge the gap between Sarasota and Tampa bays.
"People come into the St. Pete shop and we tell them about Sarasota," Rapheal Perrier said.