SAINT PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – A new restaurant being crafted in St. Petersburg, 22 South Food Hall, is catering to restaurant entrepreneurs. A party of seven small restaurants is scheduled to fill the kitchen inside the historic building located at 642 22nd Street South. The grand opening is scheduled for April 30.
“22 South is a reconfigured food hall that is going to be in the historic Manhattan Casino building and the food hall is based on a premise that there are a lot of restaurant entrepreneurs who have the dream of opening their own restaurant but they need some kind of stepping stone to get there,” explained Leigh Fletcher, a managing member of Callaloo Operations Group.
Callaloo Operations Group is the investment operations company behind the new restaurant.
“It is going to be a varied menu,” said Fletcher, “that reflects all of the different cuisines that our chefs are passionate about so we will have everything from sushi to barbecue to vegan to fruit bowls to you name it. It is going to be here and that is what is going to make it fun.”
Unfortunately, the success of this restaurant will not be experienced by one of the primary investors, Vincent Jackson. Jackson, a former wide receiver for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, thoroughly enjoyed participating in and contributing to the community. He passed nearly two months ago.
“His spirit and his desire to support the community were inspirational in a way,” said Fletcher, who spoke to him constantly about this project over the past year. “It was a joy to talk to him every day. He was so optimistic and he was so excited about creating opportunities and delivering experiences to the community that would lift it up. Every time I talked to him I felt kind of encouraged and joyful about what we were doing.”
Fletcher admitted she hopes these small restaurants will prosper and expand beyond 22 South Food Hall. However, one restaurant will always be a staple there.
“We wanted to find a way to honor him and honor the work he is doing in the community so we named our concept, ‘VJ’s,’” said Fletcher. “That is going to be a permanent place here and the neatest thing we are doing with it is we have partnered with his foundation, the Jackson in Action 83 Foundation, which supports military families, and a portion of the revenues from the restaurant will be supporting that foundation so it is a way to keep him here even in spirit even though he is not here with us in person.”
The restaurant will open to the public on Friday, April 30. It will offer live music on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and the artwork on the walls can be purchased by the customers. Those pieces belong to local artists.
A café is also connected to the restaurant so you can enjoy a variety of breakfast items every morning inside or outside.
“I am passionate about entrepreneurship. I am passionate about what owning a small business can do for a family and I love the opportunities that food brings to bring people together and allow for differences to be recognized and honored and understood,” said Fletcher, “so what I am most excited about is we get to do both of those things. We are encouraging entrepreneurship but we are also creating a community place where amazing food can be served and we can all come together as a community and learn from each other and learn from different cuisines and really celebrate what life is today in St. Petersburg.”