Sherry King sat on the curb Tuesday morning, watching a crane bash down walls of the burned-out building where she and her husband ran A Modern Line furniture. Bulldozers drove down Florida Avenue scooping up soaking wet, scorched debris.
An electrical fire at the Domani Bistro Lounge next door set off a blaze that all but destroyed both locations. Sherry’s husband, David Call, gave a gaggle of TV crews a quick, stoic interview. It was an emotional moment.
“I guess they got their sound bite, and now they’re off to something else,” Sherry said. “But it doesn’t end there for us.”
Covering and publicizing the event last week like I did is one thing, but I see her point, and as the whole neighborhood is coming out to help Domani and A Modern Line, I’d like to help out, too.
Both Domani and A Modern Line pioneered their way into Seminole Heights several years ago amid a still-tough economy and renovated basically abandoned spaces on Florida Avenue at a time when all the affluent money was building in South Tampa, Brandon and other well-manicured neighborhoods. They helped build a wave of urban redevelopment that’s made Seminole Heights a hot destination with rising home prices again. Want upscale apothecary items? There’s the fancy soaps and lotions store Cleanse nearby. Want hip Shinola bicycles? There’s the Velo Champ bike shop around the corner. There are new art galleries and custom woodwork shops. Places like Rooster & The Till moved in just up the street, and it’s winning huge acclaim. The neighborhood still isn’t Hyde Park, but it’s going in that direction again. Soon, there will be hip new local liquor tasting rooms, more craft beer pubs and more coffee shops.
That’s one reason that after the fire, the neighborhood quickly came out to help. There was Dirk Peters, a prominent landlord in the area, giving a comforting word to Sherry. There was Greg Barnhill, who runs many of the local farmers’ market events and is renovating a nearby space into a craft beer site. After firefighters gave the OK, other friends showed up to help drag wet furniture from the still-unstable building. Another friend quickly offered free storage space for Sherry and David to stow furniture until they can find a new place.
The Tribune’s food writer, Jeff Houck, was on the phone and online, trying to find jobs for Domani’s highly acclaimed kitchen and bar staff. But there are more things everyone can do. Here are a few suggestions.
Former Tribune writer Susan Ladika lives nearby and flagged me to a “Friends of Domani and Bistro Lounge” Facebook page that’s gathering news and info. It already has 1,000-plus Likes. That shows something.
The arts group Urban Art Attack and the nonprofit Seminole Heights Foundation are using their websites to gather donations for a recovery fund. http://seminole heightsfoundation.org/wordpress/?p=603
“This is the reason we picked this neighborhood in the first place,” said Domani owner Brian Bosco. “This is a neighborhood where people care about more than themselves. I’m getting flooded with texts, posts and calls. It’s amazing to see.”
Luckily, Bosco did have business insurance. Perhaps they can rebuild at the present site, though some of that will depend on if the landlord rebuilds. Perhaps Domani finds a new place. In the meantime, Bosco can bring a few employees to help open his other project, Red Star Rock Bar, by late March.
Other restaurants are chipping in, too. Pizza Fusion is donating a portion of its proceeds this month to help Domani employees. And there are plans for a number of restaurants to chip in some of their proceeds during Restaurant Week, which starts March 1.
Will Barrett, who lives in the neighborhood, is helping organize a fundraiser T-shirt, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to employees of both Domani and A Modern Line. Here’s the link to pre-order: heightsunites.bigcartel.com.
A Modern Line still has a website, www.amodernline.com. (Make sure to use the “A” in “A Modern Line,” so you find the right store.) And though they still have a lot of sorting out to do, you can do worse than pick a few items for your own Draper-style lounge at home. Their Facebook page has updates: https://www.facebook.com/pages/A-Modern-Line/148433368524352
Bosco is launching the Red Star Rock Bar just down the street from Domani. When it opens this spring, swing by and leave an absurdly large tip for the staff. I will. If beer isn’t your thing, buy a Coke. Leave a $50 bill.
Insurance payments are one thing, but they can take time. Rebuilding is difficult and also takes time. We should all feel lucky when we don’t have to rebuild our lives, and help out those who do.