Don Me Now was originally in Hyde Park Village. Why make the move to the Channel District? What was appealing about the neighborhood?
Don Me Now was in Hyde Park Village for almost five years, and in 2016 when we were originally considering relocating, we felt strongly about staying in South Tampa. That’s where our clients were, and we didn’t want to start from scratch in a new neighborhood where no one knew our name. We looked around and really didn’t feel a connection with any of the locations in South Tampa. In early 2017, our broker showed us floor plans for a few spaces in downtown, including the Channel District, and we thought, “What’s even happening in downtown right now?” Little did we know at that time, but everything. We began to see the plans for Water Street, read articles about the developments — including what Strategic Property Partners was doing for the area — and felt like taking a look couldn’t hurt. We fell in love with the Channel District. This urbanized community is friendly, clean, affordable and walking distance or a Downtowner [ride] away from so much that our city has to offer. We felt at home and began our buildout at The Fitzgerald in early fall 2017 and opened our doors in February 2018.
It’s no secret that retail is one of the last business sectors to get going downtown. What have been some of the challenges and some of the benefits to being among the first retailers to set up shop in Downtown Tampa?
Being a voice for downtown retailers as a member of the SSD (Special Services District) Committee for the Tampa Downtown Partnership, this is a conversation that is constantly being addressed. There is a need and want for more retail in downtown, and the roadblocks are the same as those any area with new development or revitalization would go through. As a retailer going into a new building as we did, a full buildout is expected, and with that comes a large financial commitment. Additionally, there is a plethora of inventory in terms of old buildings as well, but what kind of structural overhaul does this imply? In either case, there are tremendous opportunities for retail in downtown and it’s only a matter of time before we see these empty spaces filled.
We have definitely felt the love being one of the first retailers in Downtown Tampa. It’s awesome to hear people say things like, “Thank you for being here,” or, “Wow, you guys are pioneers over here, that’s awesome, congrats.” I don’t think we realized how much of a convenience it would be for our clients to run downstairs, pop over on their lunch break or walk from the hotels to grab something. Residents live and work in an urbanized community for this “easy living vibe,” so having access to shopping for apparel, accessories, gifts and more without getting in a car is an added value for them. Retailers are starting to get curious about downtown, and they’re reaching out to pick our brains. We have nothing but great things to say about Tampa’s downtown and will always be an advocate for retail down here.
How did the idea of integrating a champagne bar into the shopping experience come to be?
When we were located in Hyde Park Village, in addition to holding private one-on-one styling sessions, we would also host styling parties, events, girls’ nights out, charity gatherings and more. Offering complimentary bubbly to our clients seemed like a no-brainer; giving guests more of an experience and making them feel more glamorous would make them enjoy themselves and shop longer. By our third year in our Hyde Park location, we could feel the shift in retail. People weren’t shopping the same way. Everyone was in a hurry, and we couldn’t help but overhear on occasion when someone would mention getting something “cheaper on Amazon.” We knew we had to be a part of the change or we’d be left behind.
In 2015, while on a trip to New York City, my husband and I sat sipping champagne on a rooftop bar and began the conversation about joining our retail store with a champagne bar to give our clients an unforgettable experience. While it’s common to see champagne bars with shopping in other countries the sparkling-specific concept did not exist in the U.S. Once we wrote the business plan and created the structure of the brand, it became a passion we had to see come to fruition.
We just celebrated our first year in our new location with the new concept, and what a year it’s been. To our surprise, we didn’t anticipate how much the space would be used for events, private parties, showers and more. Our guests not only love the location (an easy walk to Sparkman Wharf post-party), but they enjoy hosting a “non-traditional” event where their friends can sip bubbly and shop at the same time.
When you close up shop for the evening, where are you heading downtown for happy hour?
If we’re leaving right from work, Becks, our golden retriever (and neighborhood shop dog) is most likely with us — therefore, someplace dog-friendly. We might hit up City Dog Cantina across the street, and we’re ordering Rollin’ Nolan Nachos (love the spicy!), sauvignon blanc and a side of bacon for Becks. We can never go wrong with the outside couches at Taps. The crab and artichoke dip is perfection, and it’s rare we leave without the chocolate lava cake. We’re probably sipping a malbec or rosé.
How about for date night?
While we live in South Seminole Heights, we typically venture to downtown or South Tampa for date night. We’ve recently been obsessed with Remedy for the ambiance and views. We’re definitely ordering charcuterie and The Frida (tequila, watermelon, spicy rim!).
What’s your favorite downtown hidden gem?
Whenever guests come to town, we always take them to Spain Restaurant & Toma Bar. The food is amazing, the live music is great, and you’ve never had a caipirinha quite like this (so good, they only let you have one!).
Your store is right in the middle of all kinds of new development. What excites you most about where Downtown Tampa and the urban core is going over the next five to 10 years?
Whether it’s listening to a panel speak about Downtown Tampa’s development or a new article in the Business Journal unveiling plans, I find it hard to fight back the tears (I fangirl so hard). To be a part of something our city has never seen, never experienced before, is almost overwhelming. And to know that we’re making an impact and putting our stamp on a piece of it, there is truly a sense of pride. We feel so blessed to live and own a business in a place that is forward-thinking and committed to developing the core of our city — downtown. Tampa’s downtown in the next five to 10 years is going to have the city’s best hotels, nightlife, shopping and restaurants and will be a place residents are proud to show off. It’s an incredibly exciting time to be in Downtown Tampa, and we’re looking forward to what the future holds here.