Category Archives: Business

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Gainesville Has Treasures Waiting to Be Found

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With an influx of thousands of freshmen to UF and Santa Fe College — and new residents arriving in town every day — this is a great time to boast about what the Gainesville area has to offer.

This painting by Gainesville artists Miriam Novack incorporates many landmarks in Gainesville and on the UF campus.

This painting by Gainesville’s Miriam Novack incorporates many landmarks in Gainesville and on the UF campus.

There are people who have been to Paris but never visited the Eiffel Tower. There are people who have been to New York City but never explored the splendors of Central Park.

And, as puzzling as it might seem, there are people who have been to Gainesville but have never descended the Devil’s Millhopper or attended a performance at the Hippodrome Theatre.

Don’t let that happen to you!

Gainesville has much to offer in terms of nature, history and entertainment. There is more to see and do here than in most cities our size because, yes, it is a college town (Go Gators!), but it’s also a thriving community away from the two campuses.

If you’re new to Gainesville, welcome to town! If you’ve been here awhile and plan on sticking around, you might as well immerse yourself in what the area has to offer.

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Gator Baked Satisfies Late-Night Cravings

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The newest restaurant in downtown Gainesville is hoping that late-night partiers will have a huge appetite for comfort food once the bar scene closes down. 

You cant miss the home of Gator Baked at 12 SW 2nd St. Photo by Gainesvil;le downtown)

You can’t miss the home of Gator Baked, at 12 SW 2nd St. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Three once-vacant storefronts on Southwest 2nd Street, in the shadow of the city parking garage, are coming alive this month, doubling the number of eating and/or drinking establishments on the block.

DSCN4336Last week was the grand opening of the FishHawk Spirits Distillery Tasting Room at 21 SW 2nd St. Although not a formal bar, customers can sample rum, vodka, whiskey and other products made by the distillery and then purchase bottles and other merchandise.

“FishHawk Spirits is very excited to part of the growth on the near west side of downtown Gainesville,” said David Molyneaux, CEO of the Ocala-based distillery. “Our distillery tasting room will add a new dimension to the area.”

Next door, at 15 SW 2nd St., the husband-and-wife team of Romain and Sita Challandes are converting the old Motor Room dance club into a French bistro called Alpin. They hope to open within a few weeks.

And this week, at 12 SW 2nd St., is the soft opening for Gator Baked, a late-night carry-out and delivery food service that has set up shop in the former Infinity Lounge hookah bar. Continue reading

SpinChill a Hot Topic for Reality TV

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The downtown startup will be featured on CNBC’s West Texas Investors Club this week. There will be a viewing party at Tall Paul’s Brewhouse on Wednesday night.

Trevor Abbott and SpinChill are ready for prime time!

On Wednesday night at 10, the Gainesville entrepreneur and his downtown-based company will be featured on the season finale of the CNBC reality series West Texas Investors Club.

Trevor Abbott

Trevor Abbott

During the hour-long episode, taped in March, Abbott and SpinChill co-founder Tyler Parker pitch their product to big-money Texas investors Mike “Rooster” McConaughey and Wayne “Butch” Gilliam. The goal, as in in the popular ABC series Shark Tank, is to convince the investors to buy a stake in the company.

SpinChill is a product that enables people to turn warm beverages ice cold in a single minute by spinning the cans in ice. (Bottles take a minute or two longer to chill.) The handheld spinning tool resembles a drill but with an attachment that clips onto the top of an aluminum can or a bottle.

“By spinning something in ice or a cold liquid, you’re increasing the heat transfer by 40 times the amount,” Abbott explained.

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Busy High Dive Worthy of High Five

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The downtown concert venue has been around for a few decades in various forms, but this weekend marks its fifth anniversary as High Dive. Tonight, the Savants of Soul crank up the party.

Inside newly renovated High Dive, which marks its fifth anniversary this weekend.

Inside newly renovated High Dive, which marks its fifth anniversary this weekend.

Chris DeMakes vividly recalled the first time Less Than Jake played the downtown Gainesville music venue now known as High Dive.

“We were on stage, it was pretty loud and people were getting wasted,” he said. “Then suddenly the lights came on. They locked the doors and started checking IDs and arresting people.

Big Business from Los angeles performs at High Dive on Friday night. Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Big Business from Los Angeles performs at High Dive on Friday night. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

“The ATF was doing a raid and it was wild!” DeMakes said. “Thank God I’d just turned 21.”

That was 20 years ago, when High Dive was known as the Covered Dish and vocalist/guitarist DeMakes and his five-member punk-ska-rock band were still trying to get a little name recognition.

Two decades and eight studio albums later, Less Than Jake has seen the world — and the world has certainly seen them. But they still call Gainesville home. As proof, each year on Labor Day weekend, they host the Less Than Jake Wake and Bake Weekend at High Dive.

That’s because High Dive is the kind of concert venue musicians love. Fans can crowd the stage and reach out and touch the artists, creating an energetic atmosphere for everyone.

This weekend, High Dive is celebrating its fifth anniversary with a full schedule of events that began Friday night with a metal show headlined by the L.A.-based duo Big Business. The fun continues today with the Gainesville Girls Band Camp Showcase at 4 p.m. and a concert tonight headlined by Savants of Soul. The show also includes Oranga Tanga from Melbourne and PopCanon, an eclectic rock band that will be reunited for the first time in 15 years.

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Elixir’s Owner Promises Different Bar Experience

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Lawrence Clay is bringing a taste of California to downtown Gainesville with the opening this weekend of Elixir Lounge and Juice Bar in Union Street Station.

The inside of Elixir Lounge and Smoothies Bar.

The décor inside Elixir Lounge and Juice Bar has a bright, contemporary feel.

Looking for something new and different in downtown Gainesville? Look no further than Elixir Lounge and Juice Bar, opening this weekend at 201 SE 2nd Ave., Suite 109 (behind Starbucks).

A classic acai bowl

A classic acai bowl

During the day, Elixir will operate mainly as a juice bar, featuring smoothies, protein shakes and acai (pronounced ah-sah-YEE) bowls loaded with healthy fruit.

In the afternoon and evening, Elixir will offer patrons an extensive list of beers and wines along with appetizers such as beef taquitos and pizza strips. A full liquor bar will be available in August.

Owner Lawrence Clay has scheduled a “Quiet Opening” for Saturday at 9 p.m., featuring $2 drafts and bottles and other drink specials. There will also be free food and other giveaways throughout the night to introduce Gainesville to the new concept. Hogtown Slayers will provide live music.

“The headline should read, ‘Hollywood Takes Gainesville By Storm!'” said Clay, a promotor and consultant who splits his time between Tinseltown and Hogtown. “I really want Elixir to be the ‘it’ thing downtown.”

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Electro Aerial Show Gets Off the Ground at Market Street

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The Market Street Pub & Cabaret hosts a show tonight that begins with bartenders serving beer and wine while suspended from the ceiling. The aerial artistry is the brainchild of Corey Souza, owner of S-Connection studio.

Aerialists for AscenDance perform on the trapeze.

Aerialists from AscenDance perform on the trapeze. (Allen Finley Photography)

When your parents warned you that nothing good can happen hanging around in bars, they obviously weren’t talking about the AscenDance aerial bartenders.

Corey Souza in her S-Connection studio Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Corey Souza in her S-Connection studio. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Tonight at Market Street Pub & Cabaret, 112 SW 1st Ave., the Gainesville-based performers will serve beer and wine while suspended from lyra, or aerial hoops. That is only a warmup for the Electro Aerial Show featuring a variety of circus-style acts.

“The aerial bartending is like eye candy that goes on throughout the night,” said Corey Souza, owner and artistic director of S-Connection Aerial Arts, the downtown Gainesville studio where the performers train.

The aerial bartending begins at 8 p.m., followed at 9:30 by a choreographed performance that will include aerialists on silks, lyra and poles. Jazzology will perform live music throughout the evening. The show has a $5 cover charge.

“We’ve had excellent crowds for our previous shows,” Souza said. “People are always warm and supportive, and we’re very grateful the Gainesville community has been accepting of our work.”

Souza will emcee and sing during the event, which will feature eight acrobats on apparatus anchored to rigging on Market Street Pub’s 14-foot-high ceilings.

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The Jam is Going Away, But Won’t Be Forgotten

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The quirky little concert venue on West University Avenue is shutting its doors at the end of May, leaving local bands and music fans one less place to, well, jam.

Blake Briand stands near the entrance to the Jam, at 817 W. University Ave. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Blake Briand stands near the entrance to the Jam, at 817 W. University Ave. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

After a sure-to-be memorable Memorial Day weekend, the Jam will be just a memory.

The nightclub at 817 W. University Ave. will close its doors at the end of the month because its UF landlords are redeveloping the entire block on which the Jam stands.

The writing has been on the wall at the Jam.

The writing has been on the wall at the Jam.

“We knew this day was coming and we’ve dreaded it,” said Blake Briand, who has co-owned the Jam for the past three-and-half years with Veronica and Eddie Arenas. “I’m giving it my all so that I have zero regrets at the end.”

Later this year, the buildings that house the Jam and other tenants on the block —including two tattoo shops and the Unified Training Center—will be bulldozed to make way for the expansion of the Innovation Square neighborhood. A six-story luxury apartment building, called Inception at Innovation Square, will replace the strip of locally-owned businesses.

For Briand, 38, closing the Jam means losing a livelihood he has cherished.

“We’ve gone from amateurs to one of the premier venues in town,” he said. “When I lock the door for the last time and turn in the key, I don’t know how I’m gonna feel. And I’m a little scared of that.”

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Student-Run Business Satisfies Urge for Cookies

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A downtown startup called Cookiegazm bakes 10 varieties of cookies and delivers them warm to your door within 45 minutes.

Daniel Leal (holding tray) and crewmembers, from left, Daniel Gavrilin, 19, Roberto Giorgetti, 18, and Samuel Benarroch, 20, in the Cookiegazm kitchen at Omi's.

Daniel Leal holds up a tray of fresh-baked cookies with Cookiegazm crewmembers, from left, Daniel Gavrilin, 19, Roberto Giorgetti, 18, and Samuel Benarroch, 20, in the kitchen at Omi’s.

Final exams loom for about 70,000 college students around Gainesville. That means plenty of all-night cramming ahead. And that means a lot of late-night cravings for sweet treats.

Red velvet and

Cookiegazm’s red velvet and peanut butter cookies.

One business in downtown Gainesville caters to those cravings in the form of fresh-baked cookies and, yes, even some milk. Best of all, the company delivers those warm goodies directly to UF dorm rooms and libraries, as well as to apartments and homes near campus and around downtown as late as 3 a.m.


That sound is the intense sensation of Cookiegazm.

Daniel Leal came up with that provocative name when he started the business out of his apartment two years ago.

“I just thought about the feeling that our customers would get when they tried our cookies,” Leal said with a naughty grin. “It worked out!”

Today, using the commercial ovens at Omi’s Playa Azul in Sun Center East, Leal and his Cookiegazm team—all fellow UF students—routinely bake hundreds of cookies every night of the week. During final-exam week, those numbers are expected to rise like cookie dough exposed to 400-degree heat.

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Say Cheese! Wine Shop’s Reopening Draws Smiles

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Maude Wilson has been doing a steady business since opening Downtown Wine & Cheese last week in a space that had been the Wine & Cheese Gallery for 43 years.

Downtown Wine Cheese owner Maude Wilson in front of her menu board that is updated daily. Photos by Gainesville Downtown)

Downtown Wine & Cheese owner Maude Wilson in front of her menu board that she updates each day. (Photos by Gainesville Downtown)

The people have spoken, and Maude Wilson’s Downtown Wine & Cheese has opened for business in the homey space formerly occupied by the venerable Wine & Cheese Gallery at 113 N. Main St.

“We opened last Monday without telling anybody,” Wilson said. “It was all word of mouth and it was crazy all week. I am very, very happy.”

Last August, Wilson found herself unemployed when Thomas “Bunky” Mastin and Wade Tyler decided to close the Wine & Cheese Gallery after 43 years, shuttering a downtown institution that dated to the Nixon administration.

Eight months later, Wilson has resurrected the business with a slightly different name but the same quality food and service customers expect.

“I’m glad she’s keeping it going,” said Brian Sparks, who dropped by the store Monday evening with Holly Greer. “This place has been around a long time.”

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Downtown Gets First Taste of FishHawk Spirits

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The new tasting room in the old 2nd Street Speakeasy is the first offshoot of the Ocala-based distiller of rum, vodka, absinthe and, soon, whiskey.

Dave Molyneaux, second from right, and his team at the Fish Hawk Tasting Room Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Dave Molyneaux, third from left, and his FishHawk Distillery Tasting Room team, from left, Chris Fillie, Joe Faino and Brian Meade. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

absintheThey’re pouring drinks again inside the bar space that once housed the 2nd Street Speakeasy in downtown Gainesville. And the best part is, it doesn’t cost a dime for a taste.

The FishHawk Distillery Tasting Room had a trial run for invited guests last week, and no one left disappointed. In another month or two, the storefront at 21 SW 2nd St. will be open for anyone 21 and older interested in sampling FishHawk products and perhaps purchasing bottles of the flavorful spirits to take home.

“We have a Craft Distillery license, so we’re not allowed by law to sell alcoholic beverages, but we can sell you the bottle,” said David Molyneaux, CEO of FishHawk Spirits.

Molyneaux came out of retirement one year ago to open a craft distillery in Gainesville. However, after months of planning, he decided to partner with the small, farm-based craft distillery in Marion County, near Dunnellon. The company developed a spirits line that now includes Absinthia Rubra liqueur, Marion 106 Black tangerine brandy, Island Grove Blueberry Vodka and Twisted Sun Gold Rum.

By the end of this year, FishHawk is expected to have a selection of 20 different spirits, including seven flavors of infused vodkas and the same number of whiskeys under the Sui Generis (“one of a kind”) brand name.

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