A local restaurant and café is being tabbed for two renovated historic buildings in Zephyrhills.
Before long, the Captain Jeffries House and Carriage House in Zephyrhills are expected to have new tenants — Tina and Joe Novak, of Tina and Joe’s Café in Dade City.
The Novaks have operated the cafe for about seven years, at 14232 Seventh St., in Dade City.
The lunch spot served a variety of fare, including soups, wraps, salads, handcrafted sandwiches, lobster rolls and homemade desserts, including cookies and pie.
Over the summer, the City of Zephyrhills opened a request for proposals (RFP) from potential tenants for the adjacent Jeffries House and Carriage House.
The city received three responses — Tina and Joe’s Café, Flowers by Annie and Shell’s Killer Bakery.
An evaluation team ranked the proposals, with Tina and Joe’s Café coming out as the top-ranked firm by a strong margin.
The evaluation team consisted of Zephyrhills Community Redevelopment Agency director Gail Hamilton, Zephyrhills building official Bill Burgess, Zephyrhills senior planner Rodney Corriveau, and Pasco County Economic Development Council director of stakeholder engagement Mike Bishop.
The collaborative exercise was designed with the idea of making those historic spaces a catalyst to inject new life into the city’s downtown and attract more foot traffic to the area.
The Jeffries House and Carriage House are in the downtown shopping district, which includes City Hall, the City Library, as well as multiple retail shops and a microbrewery.
The buildings are a short walk to Zephyrhills Brewing Company, Your Turn Board Game Café, Gentleman’s Quarters Barber Shop, and other destinations.
Extra weight was given to would-be tenants willing to use both the Jeffries House and Carriage House, Hamilton said, in addition to letters of recommendation from customers, bank information, business model and overall track record.
Written evaluation comments shared in a city memo pinpointed Tina and Joe’s Café as being well-established and credit-worthy, with an ability to create jobs as a full-service restaurant.
Besides locating the restaurant and café within the Jeffries House, the Novaks plan to use a portion of the Carriage House for a produce and plant makerspace, Hamilton said.
“We wanted to make it something that was a draw for downtown, and we don’t have a restaurant downtown, so that was part of the ranking as well,” she said.
The Zephyrhills City Council voted 5-0 to select Tina and Joe’s Café. The action allows city staff the notice to proceed on a negotiations and lease agreement with the Novaks.
Councilman Lance Smith voiced disappointment that more restaurants didn’t submit bids.
But Smith added: “I’m glad we had one, I’m glad that they (Tina and Joe’s Café) have a track record and they’re not a person that has a dream of starting a restaurant.”
Lease arrangements — including terms and length — will be brought back to the council for final approval.
The lease could start as early as Oct. 1.
Councilwoman Jodi Wilkeson suggested modeling a lease after those used in other municipal historic districts, perhaps encompassing improvement allowances or allowances amortized over time.
“You know, there’s lots of creative ways to make that work, too, so I look forward to seeing what you folks come up with,” Wilkeson said.
Smith added: “We all understand that to create a commercial kitchen in that (Jeffries House) building is going to be very expensive, so we need to get very creative on giving allowances for improvements to the building.”
Hamilton assured council that staffers will work closely with Zephyrhills City Attorney Matt Maggard “to make sure we create a lease that is both creative for the city and for the prospective lessee.”
The Captain Jeffries House, at 38537 Fifth Ave., is named after the city’s founder, Captain H.B. Jeffries, who established Zephyrhills as a retirement area for old Union soldiers.
The 2,365-square-foot structure, built in 1912, was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on Nov. 29, 1995.
In addition to the interior space, it has a 600-square-foot wraparound porch. It has original hardwood floors, windows, light fixtures, a fireplace and stained glass windows.
Work completed in 2016 included plumbing, electrical and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC).
The Carriage House at 5323 Ninth St., was built in 1940. It is a two-story structure of 1,320 square feet, including a balcony on the second floor. It has restored original windows and folding garage doors.
The building has a one-bedroom apartment, with a kitchen and bathroom on the second floor, which has its own entrance.
New plumbing, electrical and HVAC work was completed in the structure during 2020.
Published September 22, 2021