A pair of Miami real estate businessmen who live part time in Mount Dora have acquired neighboring downtown properties and plan to merge them into a multi-tenant public market in their second hometown.
Michael Ross and Peter Burgess had been planning the market at the site of the former Pisco Sour bar and restaurant at 100 E. Fourth Avenue, which they acquired in 2017. When the neighboring building at 334 Donelly St. went on the market, they pounced.
"It was so bizarre how it happened," said Ross. "We had totally maxed out 100 E. Fourth, and we were just going to settle with what we have. It’s weird, it just happened at the right time."
The speedy deal for the former Every Nook and Cranny artists' space doubled the market’s size, from 4,500 to 9,000 square feet, and allows Ross and Burgess to pursue more vendors.
Twelve vendors had already committed to the first building, including the New York-style deli, Nosh, and a 28-tap craft bar, The Filling Station. Flower retailers, bakers and juice bars have also signed on.
The owners had to turn away interested entrepreneurs; now, they can welcome 20 more vendors. Ross declined to name potential future vendors because “there’s nothing on paper.”
An alley between the two buildings will become a walk-through beer garden.
Public markets are becoming more and more popular, spreading from places like Seattle and Baltimore to Orlando and Winter Garden. The New York-based Center for Public Places says such markets can spark urban revitalization, foster community diversity, and even improve public health when vendors provide fresh produce.
"We see them wherever Peter and I have traveled," Ross said. "You see them in Europe, you see them in the Northeast. We went and looked at the different marketplaces and said, 'We should try that in Mount Dora.' "
Ross and Burgess are no strangers to Mount Dora real estate. They began visiting the town for the Sunnyland Boat Show on Lake Dora and fell for its charm; Burgess owns a classic Chris-Craft and is a fan of wooden boats.
With the help of local agent Dawn Williams, Ross and Burgess have invested in a two-story building across the street at 351 Donnelly St. that has tenants including Las Palmas Cuban restaurant and the Mount Dora Olive Oil Co., and they own an office building and a second home in Mount Dora.
They paid $1.75 million for the first building and $2.5 million for the artists’ space. They hope to have the public market open by mid-August.
“It’s going to be a nice marketplace,” Ross said. “It’s going to bring a lot of people into Mount Dora, and it’s going to benefit other businesses and restaurants downtown.”