Old Carlucci’s Vero Beach location primed for what may come

VERO BEACH – For 10 years, Carlucci’s Gourmet Market was a regular stop for South Beach residents wanting to dine in, take out or pick up some fresh-baked bread or spirits from the market.

Now, the owner of the old Carlucci’s hopes another neighborhood landmark will grow and flourish in a brand-new building at the same location.

The former structure, built in 1978, had also been the home over the years of South Beach Liquors, Nino’s, the Black Pearl, Leon’s restaurant and Kiki’s coffee house.

Moorings resident Carlo DeChellis made the heartbreaking decision to tear down the old building after the 2004 hurricanes lifted the eastern edge of the roof and drenched the interior.

Having lost one structure in a storm, DeChellis and his son designed the replacement building to withstand the elements.

DeChellis said the building would “laugh at a hurricane.”

“This building was built without cutting any corners,” said Broker- Principal Billy Moss of Commercial Real Estate LLC, who has the rental listing of the building and the office space next door.

From the steel-reinforced construction, double-paned impact windows and functional hurricane shutters that grace the Mediterranean flavored exterior to the separate meter room and the energy efficient features and pre-installed grease trap, the building is ready to be customized for a restaurant of up to 1,900 square feet, large enough for about 60 seats.

Plus there’s another 2,100 square feet for a second or even a third vendor.

Moss suggested perhaps a bakery, frozen yogurt shop, wine shop or gourmet market – or combination of all of those.

With 149 feet of frontage on A1A, a monument sign and permission for signage on the building as well, Moss said whatever opens up in the building will get lots of attention.

That, combined with DeChellis’ long history with the building, his business connections and the general buzz the new construction has created on the South Beach in this economic climate when not much new is being built, will insure that the new place on the block “will be well known,” he said.

On the wish list for DeChellis –  and his neighbors in the Moorings – is a place that will not only offer sit-down dining, but also prepared meals ready to pick up and serve at home.

Moss calls this end of the restaurant business “home meal replacement” and said it would be a great way for an entrepreneur to make the most of the available space and of his or her kitchen capacity and staff.

Though Moss said drive-through windows are not permitted on the barrier island, the new tenant could offer curbside pickup service, something that’s become popular at the chain restaurants on the mainland.

Moss, who is negotiating with prospective tenants, said he gets calls “every day” about the building and that he shows it frequently.

The unfinished dirt floors, Moss said, to someone setting up a restaurant, are a blank canvas.

“It can be built out with the plumbing and fixtures however the tenant wants,” Moss said, adding that DeChellis plans to share some of the costs of the finishing touches.

Though he said he’s got some of the area’s leading chefs and restaurateurs looking at the space, nothing has been finalized.

“It’s still available,” Moss said. “Nothing is done until it’s signed, sealed and delivered.”

In his many years both in the restaurant business and in selling and leasing commercial properties, Moss said a five-year lease with a five-year option is pretty typical for such a property, giving a restaurant owner enough time to recoup the substantial investment of apportioning the interior and equipping a restaurant.

DeChellis said he plans to be an involved and responsive landlord who wants to see the new generation come in and make a go of his prime location.

“There’s no other food establishments around here, from the 17th Street bridge to Comberland Farms in Ft. Pierce, except for one of the highest grossing 7-11s in the state of Florida,” Moss said.

“This place has so many advantages, it’s got to be a gold mine because there’s nothing here and there’s even more traffic now that St. Edward’s School has put the Lower School down at this campus,” DeChellis said. “The traffic is 10 times what it used to be and this area is a lot of year-round residents. It stays very busy right up to June when people go on vacation when the school closes for the summer.”

As the building went up and the parking lot and landscaping was completed, DeChellis said anticipation has been building among South Beach residents ready to become patrons.

“People ask me every day, is it going to be a food place, a restaurant, a bakery? I get it constantly, them asking what are we going to put in there.”

When he had Carlucci’s, DeChellis said he used to sell 50 cases of fresh baked bread per week and tons of salads and other prepared foods.

DeChellis said his son owns the parcel across the street, known as the old Charlie Brown’s property, and that the family would not sell to anyone planning to open up a competing business with tenants in the 1402 building.

“That’s going to go to residential,” DeChellis said. “There’s a lot of property back there; it’s 1 1/4 acres.”

When asked what kind of restaurant each would open if planning to set up shop themselves, both DeChellis and Moss said the variety of the fare would be secondary to a few key elements required for success.

“As long as it was good quality and the person knew what they’re doing in running a restaurant, it wouldn’t matter what kind of food,” Moss said. “And it would have to have great, friendly service, because it would be a neighborhood joint.”

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