YBOR CITY — Jason Fernandez, the owner of several Ybor City restaurants, said he got into the business because of his neighbor — the late Adela Gonzmart of the Columbia Restaurant.
Now he has an award that bears her name.
Fernandez received the Adela Gonzmart Award recently from the Ybor City Museum Society, along with two others who also received prestigious recognition with the presentation of the 2014 Legacy Awards.
Don Barco, owner and operator of King Corona Cigars, received the Ybor Award for his business involvement; Anna Ramos received the Pizzo Award for her work to preserve Ybor City’s buildings and heritage.
The 30th annual awards were presented at a June 22 brunch at the Columbia Restaurant, attended by almost 200 guests. The Legacy Awards celebrate the achievements of visionaries who have made a lasting economic or cultural impact on Ybor City, Tampa’s National Historic Landmark District.
Fernandez said Ybor City is “the cultural hub of the city of Tampa.”
A fourth-generation Tampa native, he has been involved with Bernini’s, Carne Chophouse, Green Iguana and Tequila’s. He repurposes historic buildings for his various ventures, markets them with Ybor’s flavor in mind and supports local nonprofit organizations.
“The first place my grandparents danced is now the Chophouse,” he said.
Barco offers products and educational materials that promote Ybor City’s past and present and appeal to both locals and tourists.
He grew up in Ruskin and Palmetto Beach, graduating from Jefferson High School. In 1998, he and his wife, Brenda, opened King Corona Cigars. He has been involved in a number of Ybor City organizations, including the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce and the Ybor City Development Corp.
“I am just overwhelmed and honored beyond words,” Barco said.
Ramos, who was born and raised in Ybor City, served on numerous organizations and boards and was the executive director of the Centro Austriano. In 1997, she became the events coordinator for the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce.
She said the award, named for the late historian Tony Pizzo, has special significance to her as she went to the Pizzo’s family grocery store as a child.
“We lived a half a block from their family grocery,” she said.
Nominations are accepted from museum society members and the public, said Chantal Hevia, president and CEO of the organization whose mission is preserving, promoting and celebrating the unique cultural heritage of Ybor City and supporting the Ybor City Museum State Park.
A committee from the society makes the selection, she said.