Ask The Locals

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ask the Locals: The Locals Recommend…

Posted By on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 at 5:08 PM

Cheong Choi and his staff at Cafe Hey. - PHOTO BY HEIDI KURPIELA
  • Photo by Heidi Kurpiela
  • Cheong Choi and his staff at Cafe Hey.

We figured you might be hungry after reading the locals’ multiple recommendations  so here’s a handy guide. The names in parentheses tell you which locals recommended what. 

RESTAURANTS
ABC Chinese Seafood Restaurant 2705 54th Ave. N., St. Petersburg, 727-522-1888, abcchinesestpetersburg.com (Stevenson)
Agave Restaurant 6400 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach, 727-367-3448 (Manteiga)
Alésia 7204 Central Ave., St Petersburg, 727-345-9701, alesiarestaurant.com (Stoneciphers)
Anise Global Gastrobar 777 N. Ashley Dr., Tampa, 813-225-4272. aniseglobalgastrobar.com (Schaefer)
Anna’s Polish Deli 1300 E Bay Dr. #A, Largo, 727-953-7763 (Stevenson)
Ava 718 S. Howard Ave., Tampa (Maddon)
Banyan Café & Catering 689 Dr Martin Luther King Jr St. N, St Petersburg, 727-896-6100, banyancoffee.com (Devin Jones, Stoneciphers)
Bavaro’s 514 North Franklin St., Tampa, 813-868-4440, bavarostampa.com (McLaughlins)
Bella Brava 204 Beach Dr. NE, St Petersburg, 727-895-5515, bellabrava.com (Smith/Hildebran)
Bernini of Ybor 1702 E 7th Ave., Tampa, 813-248-0099, italiancuisinetampa.com (Manteiga)
Bern’s Steak House 1208 S Howard Ave., Tampa, 813-251-2421, bernssteakhouse.com (Mulhern, Wilborn)
Bianchi’s Enoteca 3215 S. MacDill Ave., Tampa, 813-837-2233, bianchisenoteca.com (Todd Smith)
The Birchwood/The Canopy 340 Beach Dr. NE, St Petersburg, 727-896-1080, thebirchwood.com (Banno, McClellan)
Bodega on Central 1120 Central Ave., St Petersburg, 727-623-0942, bodegaoncentral.com (Stevenson)
Bo’s Ice Cream 7101 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, 813-231-7190 (Redner)
Brocato’s Sandwich Shop 5021 E. Columbus Dr., Tampa, 813-248-9977, brocatossandwich.com (Schaefer)
The Bricks of Ybor 1327 E. 7th Ave., Tampa, 813-247-1785, thebricksybor.com (Schaefer)
Buffalo Wild Wings Various locations, including Brandon and Ybor, buffalowildwings.com (Todd Smith)
CA Cafe St. Petersburg Clay Company, 420 22nd St. South, St. Petersburg, 727-823-4500, c-a-cafe.com (McClellan)

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Ask the Locals: Trevor Burgess of C1 Bank

Posted By on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 at 2:23 PM

PHOTO BY HEIDI KURPIELA
  • Photo by Heidi Kurpiela

The CEO of C1 Bank and the 2013 recipient of the coveted Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in Florida’s financial services category, Trevor Burgess has the kind of weighty resume you find in Forbes and the kind of impeccable style you see in GQ. And he's only 41. Before moving to St. Petersburg four years ago to establish his chain of hyper-local, hyper-modern community banks, the power player cut his teeth as an investment banker with Morgan Stanley. A 1994 graduate of Dartmouth College, he spent 10 years with the investment firm, working in New York, Los Angeles and London, executing more than $50 billion in transactions for major clients, including Chipotle, which he helped take public in 2006. The executive has already appeared in Bloomberg Markets, and if his green Prada shoes have anything to do with it, a GQ close-up is inevitable.
In 2012, Burgess moved his C1 headquarters from Lakewood Ranch into an 11,000-square-foot office in downtown St. Pete’s Tampa Bay Times building. He designed the street-level space to look like the HQs of Google and Facebook, complete with napping pods for afternoon siestas. “You really have to pay attention to creating an environment you’re proud of,” Burgess says. “You want it to say something about you and your company.”
Burgess, who’s been featured in the book The G Quotient: Why Gay Executives Are Excelling As Leaders, lives in downtown St. Pete’s Parkshore Plaza with his husband of 16 years, Gary Hess, and their 4-year-old daughter Logan.

Where he goes to get wowed: The Dalì Museum. “I’m a big fan of architecture, and the Dalì is the most amazing piece of architecture. It’s like, how do you engineer a geodesic dome that can withstand a Category 5 hurricane? The building itself is fantastic, and then you add the largest collection of Dalì outside of Spain. It’s a powerful combo.”

Where he goes to drink merrily: Cassis American Brasserie. “The design of the bar reminds me a lot of New York, of [the restaurants] Pastis or Balthazar.”

Where he goes to hear live music: Tampa Bay Times Forum. “The best concerts have been there. The Bruce Springsteen concert I saw there was one of the best I’d ever been to. He played forever and the acoustics were great.”

What he loves about living in downtown St. Pete: The walkability. “Living in the city’s urban core is such a treat. My husband and I have a child, so we feel incredibly lucky to have all these parks around us. It really is the best of both worlds. I can go to dinner and movie right outside my front door, or I can go for a ride on my bike and things get pretty bucolic pretty quick.”

Continue reading »

Tags: , , ,

Ask the Locals: Nathan & Sara Stonecipher, St. Pete entrepreneurs

Posted By on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 at 2:23 PM

PHOTO BY HEIDI KURPIELA
  • Photo by Heidi Kurpiela

St. Petersburg natives Nathan and Sara Stonecipher are poster children for the city’s indie business scene.
Sara, a former advertising stylist for Dillard’s southeast headquarters, put the 600 block of downtown St. Pete on the radar of hipsters, artists and fashionistas when she opened MISRED Outfitters four years ago on Central Avenue. The clothing boutique carries recycled, reconstructed and vintage pieces, including Sara’s own line of salvaged designs, MISRED Black Label.
In September of 2013, her husband Nathan helped enliven downtown’s Edge District when he and business partner Steven Duffy opened Green Bench Brewing Co. in a converted warehouse in the burgeoning district. Named after the thousands of green benches that lined Central Avenue in the early 1900s, the 15-barrel brew house made a memorable first impression thanks to its distinct microbrews, 1,500-square-foot tasting room and 6,000-square-foot beer garden, complete with live music, lawn chairs, horseshoes and a walk-up window where you can order a quick round without having to leave your friends.

Favorite date night restaurant: Alésia. Sara: “It’s French Vietnamese. The inside of the restaurant is beautiful, crisp and white. It transports you to another place.”

Where they meet for drinks after work: The Ale and the Witch. Sara: “We like the private feel of the courtyard. [Owner] Brett [Andress] is so deliberate about music choices and what beer is on tap. The details he puts into the place really show through.”

Where they go to unwind: Pass-a-Grille. Sara: “My family has an old Florida house in Pass-A-Grille, so it’s where we go to get out of town. Pass-A-Grille is a great place to hide. We also appreciate the fact that it’s not stacked wall-to-wall with condos. Things run at a slower pace out there. It’s low key.”

Where they score vintage duds: Pasadena Community Church Thrift Shop. Sara: “Church-run thrift shops are filed with untold treasures. Pasadena has a big one. All these little old ladies give away their prized possessions. I’ve found some amazing vintage dresses in church thrift shops.”

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , ,

Ask the Locals: Eric Deggans, NPR television critic

Posted By on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 at 2:23 PM

PHOTO BY HEIDI KURPIELA
  • Photo by Heidi Kurpiela

Eric Deggans is a journalist, author, pundit and public speaker. In October of 2013, he left his longtime post as the TV and media critic at the Tampa Bay Times to do what he does best (dissect our hottest television obsessions) for NPR.
A high-profile, critically acclaimed voice at the Times, Deggans fittingly devoted his final column to critiquing the high-profile, critically acclaimed finale of the AMC series Breaking Bad. The impetus for his 2012 book, Race-Baiter: How the Media Wields Dangerous Words to Divide a Nation, was a jab from Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, who called Deggans one of the “worst race-baiters in the country.” Deggans responded by writing a book. A longtime resident of St. Petersburg’s Old Southeast neighborhood, Deggans also performs as a drummer, bassist and vocalist with several area bands. He’s the first TV critic to land a staff job at NPR.

Favorite place to read a book: Fort De Soto Park. “I tend to do most of my reading at home, but if I’m going to do it outside, I like a good park. Fort De Soto has some cool structures. I recently sat on the fort stairs and opened up my iPad.”

Favorite restaurant to meet for an interview: Z Grille, St. Pete. “It’s got a cool atmosphere. You’re surrounded by all that energy, but it’s still quiet enough to talk. Plus, we were seated quickly. The best restaurants for interviews have good ambience and you can get in and out without a wait. I hate long waits. Long waits suck.”

Favorite caffeine fix: Kahwa Coffee on 2nd Ave S., St. Pete. “Kahwa is my second home.” 

Favorite breakfast: The Uhuru booth at the Saturday Morning Market. “I will drive out of my way to get the Uhuru breakfast wrap. The guys at that booth see me coming and they know me by name.”

Favorite place for an adventure: Ybor City. “When I first moved to Tampa Bay, Ybor was like the Wild West. There were raves until 5 in the morning. Kids would be sprawled out on the sidewalk. If you dared to go to Ybor for Guavaween, you seriously worried about whether you’d make it out in one piece. That was more than 15 years ago. Ybor is much tamer now, which is better for the city. It’s still got some edge. It’s just a little less dangerous.”

Where he goes to listen to music: The Hideaway, St. Pete. “It’s an intimate place where you really get a true feel for the artist. People don’t go there to hear background music.”

Where he goes to play: The Ale and the Witch, St. Pete. “The acoustics are great. People go there to hear bands doing something distinctive.”

Favorite picnic spot: Philippe Park, Safety Harbor. “It’s this really cool park nestled in the middle of Safety Harbor. It’s a great place to reserve a shelter for a 4th of July picnic.”

Favorite touristy thing to do with the family: Pier 60, Clearwater Beach. “The sunsets are beautiful. The playground is huge and they show movies on a big outdoor screen on Friday and Saturday nights.” 

Where you’ll find him on a Sunday: “At home, binge-watching British crime dramas. I’m a TV critic. That’s the best kind of lazy Sunday!”


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Ask the Locals: Brendan & Sandy McLaughlin, TV anchor & non-profit exec

Posted By on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 at 2:22 PM

PHOTO BY HEIDI KURPIELA
  • Photo by Heidi Kurpiela

Brendan McLaughlin is the popular early evening anchor of ABC Action News. Every weeknight at 5:30 and 6 p.m. you can catch him delivering the news and the occasional witticism (he’s notoriously sarcastic). A founding member of WFTS-TV’s news department, McLaughlin has served as an anchor since the station became an ABC affiliate in 1994. The California native got his start in broadcasting later than most reporters. At age 29, he was the oldest intern in station history at San Francisco’s CBS affiliate. He later moved in front of the camera for stints in Austin, Texas and Seattle, Wash., where he picked up a regional Emmy award for reporting. It was during his San Francisco days that he met Sandy, a free spirit who was working her way up the ranks in the city’s hotel and restaurant management industry.
A star in her own right, Sandy serves as the VP of Development at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay. Prior to that she was the corporate gifts and special events manager for The Florida Aquarium. The power couple spent more than a decade raising their two children in Westchase, before making the move seven years ago to funky/historic Tampa Heights. Now empty nesters, the McLaughlins, who have been married for 28 years, have become the Heights’ most fervent denizens; urban converts with a plot at a community garden, a favorite table at a convenient store-turned-watering hole and rapports with downtown barkeeps and baristas.
“We were constantly driving down the Veterans [Expressway] to get to the good stuff,” McLaughlin says. “Now we’re within walking distance of most of it.”

Favorite neighborhood haunt: Lee's Grocery. Brendan: “It’s two blocks from our house. It’s just what the neighborhood needed — a hyper-local convivial gathering spot. You can pretty much assume everyone sitting at the bar is your neighbor. Our favorite thing on the menu is the Minor Threat pizza. It’s got jalapenos, feta, pesto … it’s addictive and delicious.”

Favorite date night tradition: Tampa Improv. Brendan: “When we were courting in San Francisco in the ’80s, we’d go to see improv shows. We still like to go see one every now and then to laugh away the bitterness and ugliness of the last 28 years.” Sandy: “My husband is the real comedian.”

Favorite stomping grounds: The Heights (Tampa & Seminole). Sandy: “We live in our favorite neighborhood. The people who live here do so on purpose. They like living in a historic neighborhood that’s next to all these cultural amenities. Brendan: “The people here are out and about and not afraid of homes that are painted unconventional colors.”

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Ask the Locals: Restaurateur Michael “Frenchy” Preston

Posted By on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 at 2:22 PM

PHOTO BY HEIDI KURPIELA
  • Photo by Heidi Kurpiela

No nickname is more synonymous with Clearwater Beach dining than Frenchy. You can’t set foot on the island without seeing at least one Frenchy’s business. Heck, even the town’s Jolley Trolley is emblazoned with Frenchy’s ads. Michael “Frenchy” Preston has been so successful at cornering the local beach bar market that his empire now includes five restaurants, two seafood companies, one gift shop and one renovated motel — the 15-unit retro-style Frenchy’s Oasis Motel on East Shore Drive. A native of French-speaking Quebec, Preston was nicknamed Frenchy as a child by his classmates in Ann Arbor, Mich. When he opened his first beach cafe 33 years ago on Baymont Street, the name seemed obvious.
Over the last three decades Preston, who lives in North Clearwater Beach, has become a fixture in Tampa Bay, his establishments beloved by both locals and tourists for their food, ambience and laid-back Florida attitude. For 30 years, the restaurateur has kicked off the start of stone crab season with his popular Stone Crab Weekend, a raucous October block party devoted to claw eating, music and dancing. His restaurants have appeared in countless publications and TV shows, including the Travel Channel, Food Network Magazine and Coastal Living, thanks in part to the brand’s world-famous grouper sandwich.
“We used to be this little place on a side street,” Preston says of his original café. “Now people tell me the first thing they do when they get off a plane, or the last thing they do before they get on a plane, is head to Frenchy’s for a grouper sandwich. That’s a huge compliment.”

Favorite place to hang with locals: Frenchy's Original Café. “I swear some people come just for the jukebox. I’ve got all the great rhythm and blues albums on that thing. A lot of the collection has been there since the restaurant opened. The regulars love to sit there, drink their beer, listen to the jukebox and let the day go by.”

Favorite Main Street: Downtown Dunedin. “It’s a fun laid-back place to visit. The stores, the bars, the restaurants, the people; it’s all very creative.”

Favorite beach strip: Clearwater Beach. “It’s really self-contained. You can go from one end of the beach to the other without having to get in your car. You can experience the real busy parts or head north and feel totally relaxed and left alone. And, you can barefoot it everywhere you go.”

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , ,

Ask the Locals: WFLA Meteorologist Steve Jerve

Posted By on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 at 2:21 PM

PHOTO BY HEIDI KURPIELA
  • Photo by Heidi Kurpiela

WFLA chief meteorologist Steve Jerve is the calm before, during and after the storm. The weatherman’s even temper and smooth delivery have made him a reassuring fixture on Bay area television for 16 years.
Before arriving at News Channel 8, Jerve worked as a reporter and weekend news anchor in his home state of Minnesota before going on to forecast weather in Jackson, Miss., Orlando and St. Louis, Mo., where he won an Emmy in 1996 for Weathercasting in the Mid-America Region.
In Orlando he made a name for himself by broadcasting the weather from residents' backyards. The segment, aptly dubbed “Backyard Weather,” is how Jerve discovered some of Florida’s best-hidden jewels, including his favorite picnic spot, Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales.
Jerve played college basketball at the University of Minnesota at Morris, which suited his 6-foot-6 frame. (Seriously, this guy is huge.) At 54, he still maintains the energetic presence of an athlete and the youthful zeal of a fresh-out-of-school broadcast meteorologist.
A jet setter and diehard motorcyclist (he spent his 40th birthday riding through New Zealand), the South Tampa resident is also a history nerd (his favorite local hangouts are steeped in lore) and a science buff who regularly breaks down arcane meteorological data into useful information for the everyman.
You can watch Jerve forecast the future in seven-day increments every weeknight at 5, 6, and 11 p.m. on WFLA-News Channel 8 in Tampa.

Best place to go unnoticed: Anywhere but here. “I hop on a plane and go to another city. The truth is it’s tough. I’m that really tall guy with blonde hair no matter where I go. I’d have to walk around on my knees to not get noticed.”

Best way to spend the weekend: Riding his Yamaha FZ1 on Florida’s back roads. “I go to Citrus and Hernando County, Dade City … it’s very hilly and un-Florida like up there. There are so many two-lane roads. It’s like flying. It’s just a blast.”

Best open road in Tampa Bay: Bellamy Brothers Boulevard in Pasco County. “It’s winding and rural with a lot of oak trees. I think it’s named after the guys who had that hit song ‘Let Your Love Flow.’”

Best place to go out for drinks with broadcasters: Four Green Fields in Tampa. “It’s an authentic Irish pub. They actually bring a guy in from Ireland to thatch the roof. It’s a great place to go with co-workers. We’ve had a lot of going-away parties there. I order the Black & Tan if I’m not working or driving.”

Best place to ride out a storm: Tampa Theatre. “If the weather is really bad, I’m at the station. I have a duty to be here and I want to be here, but … if it’s your basic summer rainstorm, I’d say the beautiful air-conditioned Tampa Theatre for its Summer Classics movie series. The place is awesome.”

Best place to shop for art: Hyde Park Village Art Fair. “There’s mainstream stuff and unusual stuff. I really like discovering local art by happenstance, whether I’m browsing a crowded art show or walking by a storefront.”

Best restaurant to take your family from Minnesota: Columbia Restaurant in Ybor. “You get the café con Leche and fresh bread, then you sit at a bar that’s over 100 years old and feel like you’re in another world.”

Best place to go off the grid: Egmont Key. “It’s fascinating out there. Did you know there’s a ranger who lives on the key in a little house? He guides the pilots into the port. Who knew?”

Jerve_0655.jpg

Best sunset in Tampa Bay: The northern tip of Anna Maria Island
. “It’s right where the sand comes to a point. There are no buildings. It looks like you’re in the Caribbean. There’s a great little restaurant at the end of the Anna Maria Island City Pier [City Pier Restaurant] where you can eat afte r, too.”

Best place for a picnic: Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales. “It’s a gem of a place. It’s not a theme park. There are no rides. It’s just this peaceful place with a huge garden and a tower with carillon bells. I know it’s going to sound crazy but there are views there. It’s one of the highest points in Florida.”

Best place to play 18 holes: Grand Cypress Golf Club in Orlando. “It’s one of the best courses I’ve played. It’s meticulously maintained. There are rolling hills, a lot of water, a lot of challenging holes. It’s a pretty place to spend the day.”

Best place to get schooled on Tampa’s past: Tampa Bay History Center. “I love knowing the stories behind the places I go. The Spanish landed here in the 1500s. Think about that. It’s fascinating! There’s also a Columbia restaurant there with a really nice outdoor patio overlooking Harbour Island.”

Best little-known Italian restaurant: Caffé Paradiso. “It’s very nondescript, in a strip mall off MacDill [Avenue]. I’ve had food in Italy and I’d say it’s pretty authentic.”

Best taste of Thailand: Jasmine Thai & Sushi. “It’s as good as I’ve had in Thailand.”

Best country cookin’: Maw's Vittles in Brooksville. “If I’m out on my bike and I see some place different, I’ll get off and step inside. The next thing you know you’re having great inexpensive pancakes at a place called Maw’s Vittles.”

Best quintessential Florida dining: Woody's Waterfront Café on Blind Pass. “It used to be a fishing shack. Now it’s this little beach joint with plastic tables and chairs and great mahi. I don’t need anything fancy. Woody’s is as good as it gets. You sit out on the water with a fish dinner as people in boats go by and wave.”








Tags: , , ,

Ask the Locals: Arielle Stevenson, journalist

Posted By on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 at 2:21 PM

PHOTO BY HEIDI KURPIELA
  • Photo by Heidi Kurpiela

Arielle Stevenson, 24, got her start in media as a teenager reporting for WMNF Community Radio’s newscast. She later moved onto hosting the station’s Artful Dodgings program, a weekly musical grab bag that served as a platform for her rich and eclectic taste in artists, nurtured in part by her parents, longtime Bay area jazz musicians. A graduate of USF St. Petersburg, she worked as staff writer and food editor for Creative Loafing from 2012-14, stalking strip malls and dark pubs in pursuit of good eats and good stories. She is now pursuing documentary film and video with her boyfriend, Charlie Diaz, and continuing her freelance writing career, which has included assignments for the Tampa Bay Times, Huffington Post, and the New York Times.

The best underground happy hour: The Bends. “I go around 6 or 7, when there’s a quieter, chiller happy hour crowd. There’s always a smattering of young artistic people. If I want a Cigar City beer, I can get it. If I want an Old Fashioned with Bulleit Bourbon, I can get it. If I want a Framboise, I can get it. They have $2 wells and the bartender, Lynnsey, is cool as hell.”

The best place to be a regular: Bodega on Central. “Everything is made from scratch and done correctly. You order at a window and then sit outside with a beer and a Miami-style Cuban. I usually get two Cuban sandwiches and two café con leches to go. They serve it all in a paper bag. I love it.”

The best place to order a brew: Cycle Brewing. “The beer is amazing. It’s very chill, stripped-down and cash-only. I go there to get growlers. I love Cream and Sugar Please. I think it’s got coffee in it. If not, it certainly tastes like it.”
The best hump-day breakfast: Buddy Brew in Tampa. “I order a cortado and eggs on a big ’ol piece of multigrain toast.”

Continue reading »

Tags: , , ,

Ask the Locals: Nadine Smith & Andrea Hildebran, activists

Posted By on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 at 2:20 PM

PHOTO BY HEIDI KURPIELA
  • Photo by Heidi Kurpiela

Longtime LGBT advocate Nadine Smith has served as the chief executive officer of Equality Florida since its inception in 1997. In 1993, she co-chaired the LGBT March on Washington and organized a historic oval office meeting between LGBT leaders and then President Bill Clinton. Smith, a former Tampa Tribune journalist, served four terms as co-chair of the Equality Federation and served as a member of the Democratic National Committee. She writes columns for both LGBT and general audience publications and is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post.
Andrea Hildebran is the executive director of Green Florida, a non-profit organization that helps create community gardens. She founded the organization in 2007 to better manage the Bartlett Park Community Garden, a flourishing vegetable garden in a low-income neighborhood in South St. Petersburg. She’s a writer and community organizer with decades of LGBT advocacy work under her belt.
In August 2012, with their toddler, Logan, in tow, Smith and Hildebran were among the first couples in St. Pete to register for a domestic partnership.

Favorite neighborhood: Gulfport. Nadine: “It’s bohemian. There are boat bums and well-to-do retirees. It’s funky. It’s laid-back. It’s friendly. There’s the beach, a playground and a place to grab a cold beer all in one concentrated little area.”

Where they’d eat every day if they could: Habana Café. Nadine: “It’s almost the de facto Gulfport Community Center. Everybody goes there. It’s super friendly and the Cuban food is excellent.”

Where their kid would eat every day if he could: Bella Brava. Nadine: “The little guy loves, loves, loves spaghetti. We love going there because the food is good, affordable and the owners care about the community.”

Favorite sweet spot: Cassis Bakery. Nadine: “The little chocolate truffles … good gravy, they’re so completely satisfying!”

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , ,

Ask the Locals: Artist Evander Preston

Posted By on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 at 2:20 PM

PHOTO BY HEIDI KURPIELA
  • Photo by Heidi Kurpiela

Evander Preston is an artist, recluse, rabble-rouser, beer drinker, Asian food fanatic and shoe whore. At 80, he’s still churning out outlandish projects and turning heads in Pass-a-Grille, where he’s a resident and gallery owner.
A native of St. Pete, the 6-foot-3 enigma has spent his entire life making headlines for his nonconformist art (he’s currently painting a coffin with a pay phone inside); his famous clients (Lauren Bacall and Jimmy Buffett); his handcrafted jewelry (an editor at W Magazine wore one of his necklaces to an event in Switzerland); and his antics (in 2007, he handed out 100 bottles of bourbon to homeless folks hanging around Williams Park).
For three decades Preston ran a music store in downtown St. Pete, where he taught lessons and sold some of the country’s first stock of Yamaha pianos and organs, which explains his collection of antique organs, synthesizers and keyboards.
Preston, who describes himself as “agoraphobic,” admits he’d rather hang out in his treasure trove of a gallery than move among Tampa Bay’s “herd.” He works out of a cluttered cottage studio behind his two-story gallery on 8th Avenue in Pass-a-Grille.
Some folks go to Pass-a-Grille for the sunsets. Other folks go to tour Preston’s gallery, which is home to a Chinese rickshaw, a 1950s motorcycle (with sidecar), a 14-karat-gold mousetrap, countless organs, candelabras, neon signs, Chinese lanterns, masks, jewelry, the artist’s personal shoe collection and a functioning kitchen, complete with a gas wok, Tandoor oven and duck press.
“For years we had parties here every week, big parties for high-paying [jewelry] customers,” Evander says. “I lead a much quieter life now. I drink my beer. I make my art. I have no great aspirations and I don’t care if I sell anything or not. That’s what all rebel artists do.”

Where he goes for a good time: Zack Gross at Z Grille. “Zack is one of my best friends. He custom makes things for me. He’s a real wild man. I don’t hang out with regular people. They bore me to tears. Zack is exotic. His food is exotic and his restaurant is exotic.”

Where he goes to buy beer: The Racetrac at 28th St. N and 22nd Ave. N. “There’s a helluva fun bunch of people there. I go there every day to get my beer. I like watching the cattle drive of people that come in and out. Nobody bothers me. In all the years I’ve been going there nobody has asked me what I do for a living.”

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , ,

Search Events

Daily Loaf Top Topics

Ask The Locals (25)


Sports (15)


Sports (9)


Humor (9)


Intern Issue 2014 (6)


Rowdies Round-up (5)


Poet's Notebook (5)


Education (5)


Dark & Sinful (4)


Fashion (4)


© 2014 SouthComm, Inc.
Powered by Foundation

Web Analytics