ABOVE: This representation of the development was included as part of AMCO Development's PUD application Jan. 17. requesting a 310-foot building height.
The legacy of Mount Dora is a hot topic and could be decided by Mount Dora City Council at a public meeting in City Hall on February 21. Only four members of the council need to vote in favor of AMCO Development’s rezoning application for its proposed 38-acre development in order for it to pass.
The controversial project, located on the south side of State Road 46 inside the 850-acre Wolf Branch Innovation District, includes multiple mid-high rise buildings, including one 250 feet tall inside an area where only buildings up to 100 feet are currently allowed. It’s not uncommon for land owners or developers to seek more valuable zoning in order to increase the property’s value in order to sell it later at a higher price.
Neither the City Manager, City Council, nor the developer opted to engage in proactive public outreach to residents regarding the largest proposed project in the City. Advance public outreach allows all stakeholders, including residents, the opportunity to listen, become informed, negotiate in good faith and build trust before an important proposal comes before City boards. With that opportunity missed, all of the Mount Dora and Lake County residents that spoke at the January 17 hearing opposed to the project and cited concerns about building heights, public trust, and the lack of innovation and high-paying jobs intended for the Wolf Branch Innovation District, among other issues.
A recent memo from Mount Dora City Manager Patrick Comiskey to the City Council stated the applicant modified the project’s final master plan since the January 17 public hearing to include the following:
865 apartment units (revised from 650 units)
665 condo units (revised from 450 units)
950,000 square feet of commercial space (revised from 750,000 square feet)
250-foot building height in a 100-foot maximum height area (revised from 350 feet)
275 senior living units
900,000 square feet of office space
150,000 square feet of warehouse
325 hotel rooms
100,000 square-foot convention center
80,000 square feet of future commercial space on Tract 1 (fronting SR 46)
100,000 of future commercial Tract 2 (fronting SR 46) with specialty grocer (55,000 sf)
Revised Buildings B, C, and D are mixed use buildings with office, residential, and commercial.
Revised Building A (office) moved from Phase 1 to Phase 3
There are no similar projects in size or scope shown on AMCO Development’s website or that appear in internet searches. Mount Dora Buzz reached out to AMCO’s president, Aaron Hakim, on three occasions for more information, but he did not respond to any questions.
Members of the public are welcome to speak on the topic at the final hearing before the Mount Dora City Council, The meeting starts at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, February 21 at City Hall located at 510 N. Baker Street in downtown Mount Dora
ABOVE: This representation of the development was part of AMCO Development's PUD application presentation on Jan. 17. Note that the tall building shown represents the original 350-foot building proposed and not the 310 feet it was later reduced to.
In recent weeks, there has been a lot of chatter on local social media regarding a towering development proposed for Mount Dora. Though it might feel like deja vu, it isn’t as familiar as it may seem.
Unlike past Mount Dora projects, this proposed development is the first in the long-planned Mount Dora Innovation District on the rural eastern edge of the city. The City of Mount Dora and Lake County collaborated on the Wolf Branch Innovation District (WBID) for almost two decades to prepare for the area's future growth. The vision for the district was to create jobs and educational facilities.
Here are some things to know about the WBID, as well as the new high-rise development proposal:
1. What is Mount Dora’s Wolf Branch Innovation District (WBID)? The district is a joint partnership between Mount Dora and Lake County and comprises 850 acres along State Roads 46 and 453. Some of the privately owned land lies within Mount Dora's city limits, while other property is in unincorporated Lake County. Initial discussions began about the creation of the WBID in 2004 and picked up planning momentum about a decade ago. The intent was to plan for growth and bring economic development to the area along with high-paying jobs. After public input, the two government entities adopted the WBID plan. Design standards were put in place, including a 100-foot height limit adopted by Mount Dora City Council in 2018. The current proposed high-rise development is the first proposed project located within the WBID to come before Mount Dora City Council for a vote.
2. Where is the current proposed development located? The proposed 36-acre, mixed-use Planned Unit Development (PUD) would be located on the south side of State Road 46 inside the 850-acre Wolf Branch Innovation District. View a map of the property here
3. What is AMCO Development and what similar projects has it completed? AMCO Development is the developer that submitted the proposal for the current project. Aaron Hakim is its president and has been a licensed general contractor in Florida since 2016, according to State of Florida documents.
There are no similar projects in size or scope shown on AMCO Development’s website or that appear in internet searches. Mount Dora Buzz reached out to Hakim on three occasions for details on such projects, but none were provided. Below is Amco's PUD application to the City of Mount Dora.
4. What is a PUD? A developer has the right to develop their property in accordance with straight zoning requirements already in place by a city or county, or they can apply for a Planned Unit Development. A PUD is a zoning designation for land that could include a diversified group of residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. Developers often opt to apply for a PUD when they believe there is give-and-take between themselves and the local government that has the opportunity to be advantageous for both parties to create a better project. For instance, a developer may allow for more green space and wider setbacks than required by straight zoning, but may seek higher residential density as a trade-off. Conversely, the developer may seek lower density than the straight zoning cap, but seek a building height taller than straight zoning allows. In the current instance, straight zoning allows up to 100-foot buildings in the WBID. A PUD application is needed to significantly increase that height limit. In order for a PUD to be approved, it requires two public hearings and two votes of the City Council. The first hearing for AMCO’s development was January 17 and it passed 6-1 which permitted negotiations to continue. The final hearing has not yet been scheduled. Mount Dora Buzz’s Facebook page will post the date when it becomes available.
5. What does AMCO’s proposed PUD development include? As per the January 17 City Council meeting, the project includes seven high-rise buildings ranging from 12 to 21 stories, including one with a height of 310 feet. The project includes:
540 condo units
275 senior living units
900,000 square feet of office space
750,000 square feet of commercial space
100,000 square-foot convention center
150,000 square feet of warehouse space
325 hotel rooms
80,000 square feet of future commercial space fronting SR 46 in Tract 1.
100,000 square feet of future commercial space fronting SR 46 with a specialty 55,000 square-foot grocery store in Tract 2.
AMCO’s proposal did not include educational facilities, healthcare, biomedical, or other industries that would create high-wage jobs and align with the Wolf Branch Innovation District’s primary plan. Amco Development's Mixed Use Masterplan with renderings can be viewed here.
6. Did AMCO or the city attempt to gain residents’ buy-in prior to the final PUD application? It doesn’t appear to be the case. To proactively gain residents' buy-in of important development projects, Michael Bollhoefer, the successful former City Manager of Winter Garden, said he and developers knew the significance of doing the "critical groundwork on important projects." This involved extensive meetings with residents early in the process and making appropriate compromises before the projects came before city boards and the city council. Bollhoefer even knocked on residents' doors personally to get their input early. This proactive practice was essential in building and maintaining trust with residents and other stakeholders with regards to development projects, according to Bollhoefer, who served as Winter Garden's City Manager for over a decade and was instrumental in revitalizing that community. The City of Mount Dora and developers who propose important projects in the city, such as the 2021 parking garage proposal, typically haven’t invested in such early and proactive public outreach. In this case, the proposed project was expedited due to AMCO Development opting to submit a final PUD rather than a preliminary PUD first. Learn more about Winter Garden’s successful process in securing good developments in the archived article here.
7. What are some buildings of comparable height in the area? There are no buildings of comparable height in the area. For example, the Citrus Tower in Clermont is only 226 feet high. However the ninth tallest building in Orlando is 315 feet. Here some others in the Orlando Metro area that are close in height to the 310-foot building in the AMCO’s proposed Innovation District Development:
Truist Plaza at Church Street is 315 feet, 28 stories (9th tallest building in Orlando)
8. Who are the expert consultants providing impact analysis on this project? AMCO Development contracted Jon Stover, whose firm Stover and Associates is based in Washington, D.C., to provide their analysis. Jon Stover has a Masters in Urban Planning from the University of Pennsylvania, a Certificate in Real Estate Development from Wharton School of Business, and a Bachelor of Science in City and Regional Planning from Cornell University. As of the January 17 public hearing, Mount Dora had not contracted its own expert to prepare in-depth analysis about how this large-scale project compares economically to the original type of projects intended in the WBID and how that shift impacts the city's residents.
9. How will this affect public schools? The property is in the Lake County Schools District (LCS). As part of the routine proposal and development process, LCS Growth Planning Department monitors their progress and assesses the potential impact in order to update its five-year capital plan as needed. The nearby property for the new Orange County School will not serve this development as it is not in the same school district. For more information on LCS Growth Planning Department visit its website.
10. What was the outcome of the first public hearing and City Council vote on January 17? The PUD proposal passed with a 6-1 vote of the City Council. That outcome allows negotiations on the project to continue before it comes back for the final public hearing and City Council vote scheduled for February 21. The breakdown of votes is as follows: “No” vote: Council member Dennis Dawson “Yes” votes: Mayor Crissy Stile, Vice Mayor Marc Crail, Council Members Cal Rolfson, Doug Bryant, Nate Walker, and John Cataldo. Watch the hearing. developer's presentation, and the City Council members' comments here by advancing to approximately 1 hour and fifteen minutes into the meeting's video.
11. How long will this project take to be completed? At the January 17th public hearing, Hakim indicated the project would be built in phases spanning 15 years.
After decades as a landmark English tea room, a charming downtown Mount Dora building will soon be home to a new French bistro.
The transition is the result of the recent retirement of Paul and Marsha Goodale, the long-time proprietors of the Windsor Rose Tea Room. The closing of the popular restaurant marked the end of a dining era in the historic district that previously boasted two quaint tea rooms, both of which now have become more contemporary dining options.
Led by owner and chef John Rossetti, the new Windsor Rose Bistro, unaffiliated to the Goodales, will feature casual French-inspired cuisine. Dishes will include Nicoise salad, French onion soup, croque monsieur, jambon beurre, charcuterie and cheese plates, poulet a la reine, escargot Bourguignon, Daube beef stew, steak au poivre, cassoulet, and bouillabaisse. This will come as welcome news to local Francophiles, since the new bistro will fill the void left by the closure of the popular Cecile’s French Corner several years ago.
Rossetti, who resides in Miami and Eustis, will offer a full service bistro menu in the cottage-like building, as well as an afternoon Champagne High Tea. In addition, table d’hote dinners (planned multi-course meals at a fixed price) will be available by reservations for two seatings at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturdays. Champagne brunch will be available on Sundays with seatings at 10:00 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 2:30 p.m by reservation.Walk-in patrons will be accommodated if space is available, however tables cannot be reconfigured in the dining room. There is a twenty dollar minimum purchase per guest and separate checks at the same table can only be split evenly. Twenty percent gratuity is added to all checks.
Rossetti, who also owns a catering company in Miami, hopes to open in the coming weeks. Windsor Rose Bistro is located at 142 W. 4th Avenue in the heart of downtown Mount Dora.
Filling a sprawling space in the heart of historic downtown, a new sports bar and restaurant opened last month in Eustis, marking the fourth location for the family-owned Florida chain. . The new Lollygaggers Sports Pub and Grill in downtown Eustis is a 10,800 sq. ft. building with a rich local history. The 10,800 square-foot building was constructed in 1884 by the town’s Ferran Family and served as downtown’s department store for over a century. The store closed in the 1990’s and has gone through various restaurant incarnations over the years.
Lollygaggers’ menu features handheld items like burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, wraps and wings, as well as salads and entrees, including their generously portioned prime rib offered as a special.
The ambiance is perfect for sports fans and features over forty large-screen televisions hung high on the walls. There is also an oversized 180-inch screen perfect for watching big games like the Super Bowl or World Series. For guests seeking alternate entertainment, the upstairs loft area offers pool tables and arcade games.
The owners of Lollygaggers, Morgan & Kason Sundberg, are longtime Citrus County residents who instantly felt at home in downtown Eustis. In addition to owning the four Lollygagger locations, the enterprising young couple, who are also generational cattle ranchers in Floral City, own Kane’s Cattle Company steakhouse and The Loft restaurant, both in Crystal River.
The owner of the building is Mega Properties which owns 16 other properties in downtown Eustis. Lollygaggers is located at 12 E. Magnolia Avenue in downtown Eustis.
Tucked inside Mount Dora Marketplace is a hidden gem of downtown Mount Dora. Claire’s Creperie, one of the original vendors inside the food hall, opened three years ago. As other eateries came and went, the creperie’s light and thin stuffed French pancakes developed a following and allowed the start-up to thrive. Fast forward to this month and the locally-owned treasure will over double its size to accommodate more salivating customers.
The friendly forces behind the business are Claire and Jesse Ernst. Claire develops the recipes and Jesse, a personal finance consultant, oversees the financial aspects of the business. The couple, who are very involved in the local community, also developed Crepes for a Cause, a program that raises funds throughout the year for various local charities.
The creperie’s best sellers are the savory “Monte Cristo” and “The Scrambler,” a warm butter crepe filled with two scrambled eggs, melted cheese, and a choice of bacon or ham. Anyone with a sweet tooth will love the most popular dessert creations like the "Something Good" (butter crepe filled with cheesecake cream and fresh strawberries, dusted with powdered sugar and topped with strawberry sauce and whipped cream) and “The Croatian” crepe (filled with fresh strawberries, bananas and Nutella, dusted with powdered sugar, and topped with whipped cream).
Claire’s also keeps things new and interesting with its seasonal creations. In order to accommodate guests with diet restrictions, they also whip up fresh keto and gluten-free crepes. Private event catering is also available with the eatery’s quaint Crepe Cart which resembles the bicycle-style carts in European cities.
Crepes have always been a part of Claire’s life. As she tells it, her mom loved everything French, so her father learned to create the perfect crepe. During her childhood, Claire, who is also a nurse, developed her own love of crepes and helped her dad prepare them.
Claire’s Creperie uses ingredients from local farms whenever possible. That commitment comes from Claire’s time spent on her grandparents’ farm and understanding the benefits of supporting local farmers, not to mention getting the freshest ingredients.
Enlarging their restaurant space isn’t the only way the Ernsts are expanding. Around the first of the year, the couple will welcome the third generation of crepe lovers with the birth of their first baby, Brea Noble.
Claire’s Creperie is located inside 100 E. 4th Avenue in downtown Mount Dora. Its hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m to 6 p.m. and Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. During some of the special holiday events, the creperie is open later.
It was a patience-testing process, but it was worth the years-long wait. Downtown Eustis’ newest addition to its restaurant scene, Lake Eustis Waterfront Grille, finally opened last month and anxious diners finally got to take in the expansive waterfront views and eclectic American cuisine.
The 170-seat restaurant features two full bars, a screened area with multiple TVs, and open-air patio dining that’s perfect for boaters seeking to grab a meal on the waterfront or just enjoy some cocktails. Although there are televisions on the patio to watch the games, the restaurant is not a sports bar, but has more of an upscale fish camp vibe.
The newly constructed, two-story restaurant is still working out some kinks during busy times, but on a recent private dining experience, Mount Dora Buzz was treated to some excellent specialty dishes that highlighted what the talented kitchen staff was capable of.
The restaurant manager, chef and kitchen staff were all refreshingly passionate about their food and service. Our culinary journey began with light and savory hushpuppies brought to the table instead of bread. The ceviche appetizer was fresh and flavorful with just the right amount of cilantro. The other appetizer we tried were the crave-worthy sweet potato wedges that were cooked crisp and with a spicy maple drizzle. For entrees, the macadamia-crusted haddock filet was cooked perfectly crisp and served with a light, house-made keylime beurre blanc sauce along with thin baby asparagus spears and cilantro rice. For landlubbers, the hand-cut 16-ounce New York strip was tender enough to cut without a steak knife and the housemade chimichurri sauce was all flavor and freshness. The vegetarian pasta primavera had a light sauce with perfectly cooked vegetables and freshly shaved parmesan.
On a subsequent visit, we tried the steak tips which were well-seasoned with a dry rub and cooked perfectly. The fish and chips was well-cooked cod with a nice crunch. On another visit, the cedar plank salmon and the pasta primavera dishes were disappointing and the interior dining area was loud. Given time to work out the issues, we know firsthand that the experienced staff is very capable of delivering fantastic dishes. On every visit, the servers were very friendly and attentive.
The driving forces behind the scenes are the restaurant’s local owners, Jim and Conni Berry and Daniel and Merrilyn DiVenanzo. The two couples are old friends and first partnered together on the project when they purchased the marina. Later they decided to build the 6,000 square-foot waterfront eatery which has taken almost three years from conception to opening day.
Plenty of attention was given to the restaurant's exterior with its beautiful landscape design. On the west side of the property there is a short nature boardwalk that goes under the bridge to assist patrons parked in the ample overflow parking lot across the street. Guests can also arrive via water and secure their boats on the cleats available at the end of the dock. Eventually, more customer docking will be built to accommodate more boaters.
Lake Eustis Waterfront Grille is open Sunday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Above: Photo of a Miller's Ale House in another location. (Miller's Ale House photo, copyright 2022)
As more rooftops are built around Mount Dora, more restaurants and retailers are attracted to the main thoroughfares of the area. The latest with plans to open in the city is Miller’s Ale House, which plans a location in front of Target near Panda Express on U.S. Highway 441.
The Florida-based sports bar and restaurant chain cooks up traditional American fare of burgers, chicken, steaks, salads and a full bar. Its casual atmosphere provides a comfortable backdrop to watch sporting events or just enjoy a relaxed lunch or dinner or cocktails at the bar.
The first Ale House opened in 1988, in the coastal town of Jupiter, Florida. Now the chain has over 50 locations in the state, 94 locations in ten states.
Previously, the name of the restaurant would be specific to the location. So the Ale House in Sanford was dubbed Sanford Ale House and the one in Orlando was Orlando Ale House. Eventually the location was dropped from the name and “Miller’s” was added to all of the restaurants.
Miller’s Ale House now joins Longhorn Steakhouse and Culver’s as the latest restaurant chains with plans to expand into Mount Dora. Longhorn will be building a location at 17020 U.S. Highway 441 near Walmart and Culver’s will be further south at 18996 U.S. Highway 441 near the Country Club of Mount Dora. Follow Mount Dora Buzz on Instagram for the opening date when it becomes available. For more local development information, click here.
ABOVE: Shadrach's Fiery Furnace's Sweet Stinger pizza (left) and Queen Margarita pizza (right). Mount Dora Buzz photo
After two long years and a lot of red tape, wood-fired pizza is now being served in Mount Dora. The bubbly and slightly charred pies are the trademark of Shadrach’s Fiery Furnace, a family-owned mobile pizza company that now has brick and mortar digs in the heart of downtown Mount Dora. The alfresco dining option serves up about a dozen different Neapolitan-style pizzas, salads, sandwiches and other fare, plus beer and wine. In addition to the outdoor bar and tables, diners can opt to eat at the tables inside Mount Dora Marketplace.
Also known as pizza Napoletana, Shadrach’s style of thin-crust pie originates from Naples, Italy and is known for its fresh and simple ingredients. The airy dough creates pillowy edges and once baked in the wood-fired oven, creates a bubbly, charred crust. Neapolitan pies are generally about 12 inches, an ample size to share between two people with average appetites.
The offerings range from traditional pies like pepperoni, classic cheese and a wood-roasted veggie pizza to more contemporary varieties like barbecue chicken, Hawaiian and four cheese pesto. Shadrach’s also offers a gluten-free cauliflower crust and vegan cheese options.
On a recent visit, Mount Dora Buzz started with the fresh Shishito pepper appetizer that had just the right amount of crunch and heat. That was followed by the flavorful baked herbed goat cheese, which was surrounded by marinara sauce and then baked in the pizza oven to melted perfection. To top it off, it’s served with garlic bread toast points that are perfect for mopping up the sauce and the cheese or just eating alone.
Then we moved on to the main event: pizza! The Queen Margarita is loaded with fresh mozzarella cheese and a four-cheese blend, plus plenty of fresh roma tomatoes and basil. We also tried the Sweet Stinger which will be an all-time favorite for anyone that loves sweet and spicy pies. It was the perfect flavor bomb of red sauce with bacon, pineapple and fresh jalapeno slices and then topped with a light drizzle of spicy honey. The two appetizers and two pies were more than enough for two of us to share, and we had enough to share with others and take home.
Shadrach’s Fiery Furnace, a family-owned business, started in 2011 as a mobile pizza kitchen and eventually traveled through the southern U.S. to back its pies at various events and venues. Mount Dorans would often seek out their mobile pizza kitchen at the corner of Wolf Branch Road and U.S. 441, as well as events at Renningers Twin Markets. The family endeavor is headed by Gary Carney and his three enterprising and friendly adult kids Jack, Sarah and Nate. The Carneys have long roots in the area with Sara and Jack both being Mount Dora High School alumni.
Shadrach’s Fiery Furnace is located at 334 N. Donnelly Street between Fourth and Third Avenues. The company’s mobile pizza kitchens are available for catering and special events.
Do you have a restaurant that you would like Mount Dora Buzz to try? Just shoot us an email and tell us about it.
It’s déjà vu only better. Over the years, many area residents have fond memories of Yada Yada Pottery, a friendly creative venue that has always exuded a warm and welcoming vibe.
Well, that positive juju is back and seemingly better than ever. Last month the pottery studio and artisan gift shop moved from its second-floor space on Donnelly Street to a larger storefront on the north side of 5th Avenue downtown. The new light and airy location provides more space for a variety of popular classes, plus a boutique area with local artists’ creations and an area for fun pottery painting sessions. Classes are taught by the creative owner, Juliet Davis, a Renaissance woman who also made all of the impressive furnishings at the new location.
Yada Yada Pottery launched in 1999 and over the years transitioned from various locations in Mount Dora and Eustis until landing in its current bright space. Davis, an established potter, offers wheel and handbuilding ceramic classes for students at every level. To gain independent access to the open studio hours, students can take one of the six-week courses available to get familiar with the studio, or participate in a one-time orientation class. To mix things up, Yada Yada Pottery also offers fun macrame classes that start with basic knots and then move on to elaborate projects.
Pottery wheel classes are available for ages 14 and up, however handbuilding classes and pottery painting sessions are available for younger ages. During those sessions, customers pick the piece they would like to decorate and paint it with a variety of available glazes . Pottery painting is available for special parties and group events.
Yada Yada Pottery’s new location is 133 W. 5th Avenue in downtown Mount Dora.
What’s old is about to be brand-new again in historic Mount Dora. After years of romantic horse-drawn carriage rides rolling through downtown, the popular tours came to an end a few years ago. Now a couple of local entrepreneurs are eager to return the nostalgic rides to the area area, but this time with an updated twist. Read more
A prime location in downtown Eustis is once again a bustling eatery. The new Brick and Barrel Kitchen opened in the former space of Tillie’s Tavern and dishes out traditional American fare in a casual, contemporary setting. The Magnolia Street restaurant is the company’s second location -- the first is in downtown Leesburg.
The limited menu features three hand-cut steaks including a 14-ounce delmonico ($36), f6-ounce filet mignon ($34) and ten-ounce New York strip ($32). Fish lovers can opt for the honey bourbon salmon ($22), grilled red snapper ($28) or blackened mahi ($22). The other entrees are the chicken and shrimp alfredo ($19), mushroom chicken ($18) and 8-ounce pork chops ($25).
The rest of the menu features American standards, including various burgers ($12-$14), traditional sandwiches ($12-$16) and a few flatbreads and entree salads -- Caesar, wedge or gorgonzola ($8-$14).
The menu also offers options for vegans including a plant-based burger ($15) and stuffed mushroom appetizer ($11).
The spacious bar features a handful of beers on tap, as well as wine, bottled beer and craft cocktails. Guests can enjoy happy hour daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. with $3 well drinks, house wines, and domestic draft beers. Fridays and Saturdays feature live music from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.
The Brick and Barrel Kitchen is located at 31 E. Magnolia Avenue in downtown Eustis.
ABOVE: Owner Crissy Stile in front of Barrel of Books & Games future location.
Mount Dora’s kids and adults are going to get more of a good thing this fall. That’s when downtown’s popular retailer, Barrel of Books & Games, is expected to open in its much larger location. The independent bookstore, currently located on 4th Avenue, will move across the street to 403 N. Donnelly Street. The prime corner space had been kept vacant since The Drawer, a women’s boutique, closed its doors in 2014.
This will be the third location in downtown Mount Dora for Barrel of Books & Games after outgrowing its two previous retail spaces. It originally opened on 5th Avenue in 2011 and two years later expanded into its current spaces on 4th Avenue.
The retailer currently has 1,210 square feet of new and used books, as well as games and collectibles. The move into the historic building is anticipated for October 1 and will more than triple the store’s square footage.
The larger space, with its large sheet-glass storefront, will enable the store to expand the children’s book section and bring in more back-issue comic books. There will also be more games, puzzles, collectibles, toys and a huge selection of retired Funko Pops, according to Crissy Stile, the store’s owner.
If her name sounds familiar, that’s because Stile is also the Mayor of Mount Dora. Her store often functions as a de facto office for residents who pop in to ask questions or bring up issues in their neighborhoods.
Stiles’ book business was incubated as an online retailer specializing in used book series in 2006, after Stile amassed a vast collection of books. Eventually, her regular customers requested new releases in the series, so the business began selling new books. “That snowballed into bobble heads and collectibles,and Barrel of Books & Games was born,” said Stile. “My parents, who live in Apopka, always owned their own businesses, so it's in my blood.”
The current location of the store is 128 W. 4th Avenue, and it’s open seven days a week from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Its unassuming exterior belies the magical transformation of what awaits. One step inside The Argonaut Bar & Lounge, a new downtown Tavares bar, and guests are immediately transported back in time and into a vintage submarine lounge. Sounds fantastical? It is.
The imaginative interior design, impressive metal fabrication and countless details took a small, nondescript space from an ambitious concept to its well-executed fruition. The original idea of this intimate beer and wine bar was the brainchild of a creative Howey-in-the-Hills couple, David and Hilary Perry. The concept leapt from the pages of a fictional Steampunk story the couple wrote about the Nautilus family that traveled the world in a submarine. That tale was also the impetus of the couple’s other Tavares business, Nautilus Coffee Company, which opened last year.
In the Perrys’ fable set during the turn of the century, the adventurous Nautilus family, headed by two ironworkers, named their submarine Argonaut. In Greek mythology, Argo was a ship and according to legend, Jason and the Argonauts were heroes on a quest to find the Golden Fleece aboard the ship sometime before the Trojan War.
The Perrys didn’t stop with their creative storytelling or artisanal coffee shop. The Argonaut is a sophisticated, vintage-inspired speakeasy with a beautifully crafted interior that was designed and built by David. His background in complex scenic construction at theme parks paid off by combining impressive metal fabrication, an illuminated bar, velvet lounge-style seating, vintage nautical accents and sharks swimming on a screen behind the bar creating an ambiance of an underwater escape. Guests can opt to sit at the bar, the tufted-velvet loveseats, or one of two intimate capsule booths with portholes.
In addition to wine and craft beer The Argonaut also features two signature wine-based cocktails. The Abyss is served bubbling in a glass chemistry beaker, and Jane’s Addiction blends Pinot Grigio and Limoncello with a splash of Butterfly Pea Tea. When guests are in the mood for a nibble, they can select from a handful of small plate dishes, including charcuterie, beer cheese pretzel bites or pear and brie skewers.
Argonaut Bar & Lounge is located at 122 W. Ruby Street in downtown Tavares. Its hours are Sundays from noon to 10 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Fridays from 2 p.m. to midnight; and Saturdays from noon to midnight. The bar is closed on Mondays.
There’s never too much of a good thing. After opening its first Mount Dora location on U.S. 441 last year, Foxtail Coffee is doubling down in the city by opening a second location in the heart of historic downtown. The owners of the Mount Dora location expect it to open by the end of June.
The Florida-based company touts being dedicated to responsibly sourcing some of the finest coffees from around the world. In addition to whipping up the expected expressos, cappuccinos, chai lattes, flat whites, pour-overs and various cold brews, Foxtail also serves baked goods, breakfast sandwiches and quiche and plans to expand into light lunch items. Opening from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. the downtown location will also have beer and wine offerings.
Although the design of each location differs, the cafes typically feature combinations of exposed beam ceilings, subway tiles, distressed wood and industrial-style fixtures to create a warm and inviting atmosphere. One of the impressive features of all the Foxtail Coffee interiors is that each has a large, unique mural painted by the talented artist, Rosie Tchekmeian. She also happens to be a co-owner of the downtown Mount Dora location and the sister to one of the company’s founders.
Foxtail Coffee Company launched just a few years ago in Winter Park with its first cafe and coffee-roasting facility. Now the company, founded by two childhood friends, has approximately three dozen locations in Florida, with some of them being corporately owned while others, like the Mount Dora locations, are owned by franchisees.
The new downtown Mount Dora facility will be located on the ground floor at 138 E. 5th Avenue across from Donnelly Park. The two-story brick building was recently sold to G3 Development and is also home to Scoops on Fifth and the art center. Foxtail's other Mount Dora location opened in the western section of Loch Leven Landing shopping center that faces Lowes.
For more news and events in Mount Dora, Tavares & Eustis, this month, click here. Discover the area's online entertainment calendar here. Also download the area's free mobile app.
ABOVE: The land for the proposed Parkview Apartments in Mount Dora. (Mount Dora Buzz photo)
On property that was recently set to become part of a new townhouse development, a different plan is now on the table. Preliminary plans were submitted by the developer proposing Parkview Apartments, 59 units in a three-story building located on the southeast corner of Grandview and Liberty, diagonally across from Gilbert Park. Previously, a townhouse project called The Bungalows was slated for the property by the same developer.
The proposed site for Parkview Apartments is 2.92 acres and is currently zoned R-3 (multi-family residential). The proposed 68,820 square-foot building has a footprint of 22,940 square feet and would offer three-bedroom apartments.
The building’s parking lot would be located on the section of property closest to the railroad tracks. The City requires 138 spaces for such a project and the developer provided 111 on the plans submitted. The City also requires a tree removal plan for permitting, which the developer provided.
Parkview Apartments received preliminary approval with conditions in April and the City requires resubmittal. The following are among the conditions the developer must meet in order to proceed:
Lower the number of apartments to 52 in order to comply with the maximum of 18 units allowable per acre.
Provide a traffic study.
Address the parking deficiency.
Provide design enhancements as required.
Clarify the maximum building height measurement to the top of the building on the exterior elevation drawing.
Provide required landscape buffers.
Revise the tree removal plan.
The civil engineering plans cite the owner of the property as The Bungalows LLC and the contact is Jake Guenther of G3 Development. The City’s correspondence about the project was addressed to G3 Development.
If the approval conditions are met and the project advances, it would eventually come before Mount Dora City Council for a vote, but that would be further along in the approval process. For additional current commercial and residential developments click here
Sign up for the free Mount Dora Buzz' monthly updates here.For more news and events in Mount Dora, Tavares & Eustis, visit the area's websiteand download the area's free mobile app.