Eat-Scene planned as food-lover's marketplace in West Palm Beach [The Palm Beach Post, Fla. :: ]
(Palm Beach Post (FL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 23--A gourmet market of eateries and specialty food shops is set to open this fall in downtown West Palm Beach, offering small, local merchants a low-cost alternative to a traditional storefront.
Eat-Scene is designed to feature 20 merchants, four "micro" restaurants and a communal seating area all in one air-conditioned building near the corner of Quadrille Boulevard and Fern Street. A bier garten will separate the marketplace from an indoor art gallery and wine room.
Developer Tony Solo said the project is loosely modeled after other popular markets across the country including Seattle's Pike Place Market. Solo hopes his project will create a similar "social scene" that attracts local food enthusiasts and tourists.
"I want the marketplace to be a culture," Solo said. "The environment is really very important. Although I love going to a Whole Foods, I don't find the sight, smell, and taste is that of an artisan marketplace."
Eat-Scene plans to have a series of events, including food festivals, cooking classes and charitable fundraisers to draw people to the market. Solo calls it "eater-tainment."
"We want our artisans to have our story to tell," he said.
For merchants, the market will serve as an incubator, allowing small businesses and eateries to grow and compete with grocers and restaurants, Solo said.
Each shop and eatery will be independently owned and will lease space in the 10,000 square-foot market. Eat-Scene staff will manage the building, help with marketing and other services that can be costly to small merchants, Solo said.
"It takes away a lot of the headaches that small merchants deal with," Solo said. "There are a lot of efficiencies built in."
With so many businesses under one roof, merchants will also be able to buy ingredients and supplies at discounted rates, Solo said.
Monique Font-Delacroix, a pastry chef and owner of The Empanada Lady, a Miami-based company specializing in organic empanadas, was one business owner to sign a lease with Solo. She said she is drawn to the Eat-Scene concept because it allows business owners to focus on their products and not on management of the facility.
"I wanted to be part of the new wave," Font-Delacroix said. "It was a very, very interesting concept."
Raphael Clemente, executive director of the city's Downtown Development Authority, said the market is a good fit for the city's downtown district.
"What I think is exciting about Eat-Scene is that it is all hand made and artisanal products, which I think is completely compatible with downtown and complementary to CityPlace and Publix," Clemente said. "There is a significant demand for original stuff. People increasingly want hand-made products."
Clemente said Eat-Scene's building, which is painted with decorative murals, has already become a downtown landmark.
Solo has "set the place apart with the artwork before he has it even up and running," Clemente said. "It has a very artsy feel to it. It has a very urban hip look."
Solo said roughly 75 percent of the market's stations have been leased by vendors, but did not provide a list of merchants. Products are expected to include fresh produce, meat, seafood, spices, tea, chocolate, and bakery items.
Eat-Scene staff will monitor the types of products the merchants sell to limit competition among vendors, Solo said.
The market is scheduled to open in December.
Solo bought the property in 2005 and spent three years working on the market plan. The property is a block away from the site of All Aboard Florida's planned train station in downtown West Palm Beach. All Aboard Florida expects to operate run 32 passenger trains a day on the FEC tracks between Miami and West Palm Beach by 2016.
Solo said the station will help draw customers to the market.
Solo also owns the development and investment firm, Ocean Drive Cos., and Ventureworx, a business center in downtown West Palm Beach that lets entrepreneurs lease office and conference space by the day or by the year.
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