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Exploring St. Pete’s Grand Central District

 
Janet's Antiques is a divine spot for vintage furniture fans. Plus, Janet is always willing to make a deal: She calls herself the "Price Fairy."  
   

I am originally from Tampa, Florida, and love to head south to visit the family and kick back without any of the stress associated with my day-to-day life in bustling New York City.

So last week—in desperate need for some R&R—I flew down to Florida and had a few days of fun in the sun before Tropical Storm Debby decided to pelt us with endless days of rain. I hit the beach in Sarasota and supped at the historic Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City. I explored Tampa’s up-and-coming Seminole Heights neighborhood and dined at the wonderful Restaurant BT and Mise en Place. On the last day of clement weather before Lil’ Debby displayed her fearsome wrath, I headed across Tampa Bay to the charming city of St. Petersburg, one of my favorite escapes. St. Pete was once a sleepy burg, but now the town bustles thanks to the likes of the fabulous Dali Museum, the Chihuly Collection and Tropicana Field, home to the Tampa Bay Rays.

While all of these are blockbuster attractions and must visits, I prefer to wander up and down St. Pete’s Central Avenue and explore the so-called Grand Central District, home to myriad antiques and consignment shops, book stores, restaurants and bars. Central Avenue was once somewhat down and out, but the street has had a renaissance in recent years and each time I visit some new gem has opened or a building has been renovated. There’s plenty of parking, and the street is terrific for pedestrians.

       
   
St. Pete's charming, palm-shaded Central Avenue, home to myriad shops and restaurants.

   
The colorful and eclectic interior at Central Avenue's super-groovy Paper Street Market.

 

Enjoying lunch at the wonderful Taco Bus.

I like to start at the bottom of Central Avenue and set out by foot. Paper Street Market is terrific for all sort of antique and vintage finds, from Hollywood Regency-style furniture to bric-a-brac. Plus, they always seem to be pouring wine when I visit, and who doesn’t love a little sauvignon blanc at 10 a.m., n’est-ce pas? There’s fantastic and long-running Haslam’s Book Store, packed to the gills with new and used books. And don’t miss the throwback fish shack next door to Haslam’s that turns out wonderful po’ boy sandwiches. And I am just crazy for Janet’s Antiques, a treasure trove of far-flung furnishings. Be sure to browse the wares at Miss Pittypat’s Porch, The White Elephant and the Gas Plant Antiques.

When all of this wandering and shopping has you tired out, beeline it for the fabulous Taco Bus, a food truck that serves amazing Mexican fare. Order your cilantro-scented tacos and beer at the truck’s window then settle in al fresco under the umbrellas and relax under the sun.

Now if only Debby would move further afield: I need another day at the beach.

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About Jason Oliver Nixon

Jason Oliver Nixon

Global Lifestyle Editor Jason Oliver Nixon is always on the prowl for the latest and greatest finds, whether it’s ferreting out the grooviest new restaurant in Paris or unearthing a home design store in Dubai. "I am attracted by color and energy, passion and verve," says Nixon. "Who wants to be beige and boring?" The former Editor in Chief of Gotham, Hamptons, and Los Angeles Confidential magazines, Nixon makes frequent appearances on television as a style authority. A resident of Brooklyn, New York, Nixon escapes to London whenever possible, where he can be found happily ensconced at Fortnum & Mason perusing new-fangled jams.

To contact Jason Oliver Nixon with your comments, questions and blog suggestions, email him at jasnixon@gmail.com. Or, post your comment on his blog!