By Tiffany Beyer
With major changes happening on the 600 block of Central Avenue, a new artsy area has sprung up nearby to capture the fading vibe of the iconic block.
The 200 block Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, dubbed the Fringe District, is home to a few shops that were once on Central Avenue. The area is now a hub for record stores, handcrafted organic cosmetics, tattoo shops and rock ’n’ roll salons.
Star Booty Salon and Foolish Pride Tattoo Co. both moved from Central Avenue to the district about a year ago.
“The rent on the 600 block doubled overnight and that’s why we all had to leave,” said Cassandra Bradshaw, assistant manager at Star Booty. “Foolish Pride was across the street from us when we were on the 600 block and were in the same boat as us. So when we knew we were moving over here, we told them there was a spot here that they should get.”
The first push to revive the 600 block of Central Avenue came in 2009, according to The Tampa Bay Times. The block became a hub for indie music and the arts, but that atmosphere steadily faded away.
Major changes have resulted in climbing rent prices, forcing many of the block’s earliest shops to move elsewhere. In May, a Miami real estate investment firm, Tricera Capital, purchased storefronts from Fubar to Seventh Street.
According to Bailey Werling, a supervisor at Foolish Pride, shop owners Brandon Pearce and Brian Signore aren’t thrilled about the changes to the 600 block of Central Avenue.
“I know everyone is a tad sad about what is going on, such as the Local 662 closing for a biscuit restaurant,” Werling said.
The Local 662, a former music venue at 662 Central Avenue, closed in June. Maple Street Biscuit Company will take its place toward the end of the year.
Meanwhile, Werling feels the recent growth in the district is just the beginning and that it will continue.
Kim Vorperian, owner of organic cosmetic company Bodhi Basics – which had its grand opening Aug. 18 – describes the Fringe District as “character-rich, off the beaten path and full of promise and dreams.”
“Coney Island (a sandwich shop) has been on this block since the 1920s and that really brings a sweet sense of community to this location,” said Vorperian. ”To have a small business be supported for so long through all the changes St. Pete has seen really speaks to the heart and soul of this town. That is just one reason why this little district is so special.”
Werling also spoke of the solidarity between the small businesses in the district.
“I have really high hopes for this block. The newer businesses that now call this district their home are so supportive of each other. We always tend to share clientele due to referrals and location,” Werling said.
There’s more things to do in the Fringe District than just shopping and eating.
“Rob (Sexton) has held some great gigs over at Planet Retro Records and we at Foolish Pride have intentions to probably have some art shows going on soon within the St. Pete art scene,” Werling said.
Planet Retro Records is also a Central Avenue transplant. Last October, the record store moved from the 2400 block in the Grand Central District to the Fringe District because of rising rent and a host of other reasons.
Werling said there are a lot of events that take place in the district. In the past, St Pete Indie Market held a pop up market in the Fringe District and Planet Retro hosted Fringe Fest.
Bodhi Basics also plans to do more than sell cosmetics.
“Bodhi will also have workshops, classes and hopefully some other fun events in the near future once the ball gets rolling,” Vorperian said.
Werling said the shops in the Fringe District hope to revive the 600 block of Central Avenue’s old glory.
“We definitely want to be able to pick up after that (area) though. St. Pete has a wonderful music and arts scene and we want to help keep that thriving the best we can,” Werling said. “It’s just a matter of starting somewhere and getting the ball rolling. It’s certainly up and coming with a great sense of community.”