October 28, 2005
Orlando Business Journal
by Bob Mervine - Staff Writer
COLLEGE PARK — When the upscale Wellesley condominiums in College Park open next spring, residents will be able to conveniently dine at several of the city’s better restaurants, all within walking distance of the seven-story residential and retail project at the intersection of Edgewater Drive and Smith Street.
Among the options: K Restaurant & Wine Bar, Taste, Juliana’s Fine Tuscan Cuisine and the Jade Bistro.
But research done by businessman John Gabrovic indicates proximity isn’t enough for the building’s upscale, active residents, who will pay from the mid-$200s to the $700s for one of the Wellesley’s 147 units. Gabrovic, one of the owners of the planned $1.2 million Harmoni Artisan Meal Market, which will be located in the building, says Wellesley residents want to take home, or even have delivered, the best of food and wine.
“We’re all about preparing and serving fresh tasting food for people in a hurry,” says Gabrovic.
To that end, he’s teamed with a group of entrepreneurs to launch an upscale bistro, wine shop and coffee bar, with a Mediterranean feel, designed to cater to residents of the building — and the neighborhood — with personal touches such as stoneware serving platters they will loan out when customers plan a party for guests, to give the food a made-at-home feel.
The 4,200-square-foot market, the first of what Gabrovic hopes will be a series of similar shops, will have three distinct areas: a wine and coffee bar, a bistro for dining in and a 2,300-square-foot retail area offering produce, an olive bar, spices, wine and takeout foods. The bistro will seat 50 people inside and 50 outside, with 12 seats at the bar.
With highly personalized service, premium ingredients and an imaginative menu, Gabrovic thinks the store will not only attract Wellesley residents, but the surrounding neighborhood when Harmoni opens next spring.
“We hoped to get open before that,” says Gabrovic. “But we’re part of the same certificate of occupancy, so we can’t open until the rest of the building is done.”
The idea for Harmoni took shape in 2002 when Gabrovic returned to Central Florida after spending 18 months in Krakow and Warsaw, Poland, where he started his own business. Along with his brother, Mark, a chef with a degree from Johnson & Wales, Gabrovic put together the concept for Harmoni, began developing vendors, worked on menus and, most importantly, found investors and partners, including Jason Varitek, a baseball player who is high school buddies with the Gabrovics; Christopher Swartz, CEO of Ultimate Franchise Systems Inc.; and retired restaurateur Chris Miliotes.
In preparation for their eventual opening in the neighborhood, the Harmoni team recently hosted a group of future residents and partners at the neighboring Taste restaurant, teaming with the Olde Hearth bakery and Stacole wines to offer a sample of the food, breads and wines they plan to offer.
That’s just the kind of businesses Wellesley developer Jim Kersey says he’s looking for in order to expand the retail base to provide his upscale residents — and the neighborhood — the best in quality and service. In addition to Harmoni, he says he’s dealing with businesses such as Lita’s Divine Creamery, a locally owned Lake Mary ice cream maker.
As for Gabrovic’s future plans, he says his firm is actively seeking other locations in Central Florida, both as a part of large condominium projects and, using a larger 6,000-square-foot design, in suburban locations where, he says, the economic model is actually better, although “this location provides us with lots of high-profile exposure.”
Adds Kersey, who was involved in the original Park Avenue Wine & Cheese store in 1973, “The Harmoni guys have hit the concept dead on for the environment and the neighborhood.”