Time seemed to have stopped at the little strip mall with no name on the intersection of Bird Road and Red Road, just a block west of Coral Gables’ city limits. The little parcel of land, a shade over two acres, seems such a quaint slice of Americana it could serve as a movie lot for a film set in 1949 — the year this stretch of retail was built.
None-too-fancy, its shops, on two narrow, parched strips of asphalt that serve as a parking lot off the busy thoroughfare, place more emphasis on the services they provide over original names: Karate. Red Bird Shoe Repair and Dry Cleaning. Wholesale Antique Center. Optometrists.
Look closer and some names stand out: Beehive Natural Foods, Sweet Art by Lucila, 1909 Cafe. The most famous name isn’t officially a denizen here: Allen’s Drugs is smack on the corner of Red and Bird, a beacon for generations for its old-fashioned luncheon counter, shakes, watch repair and everyday supplies.
The clock, however, is moving on this mall and these shops.
By the end of January everyone, except Allen’s, which is separated from the strip mall by a narrow alleyway, will be out. A new CVS is to be the sole occupant of this land, along with a redesigned parking lot. The CVS will compete with a Walgreens across the street in the Red Bird Shopping Center — not to mention Allen’s and its distinct Back to the Future flavor.
The landlord, Carmen Batista has given the merchants until January “to get out of Dodge,” Diana Del Valle said last week after 32 years repairing shoes in this space.
(Batista would not return several phone calls over two days from the Herald. A representative from E.F. Alvarez and Company said the firm handles the accounting for Batista but would not comment on the coming changes.)
Del Valle is one of the lucky ones who has found a new home. Her shoe repair shop has relocated to 2248 SW 57th Ave., not too far away.
Lucila’s shop owner Katherine Leyva said a new storefront hasn’t been secured yet. Until then, the Website for Lucila’s lists other locations in Doral, The Falls and Pembroke Pines where the sweets can be found.
And, perhaps the homiest shop of them all, Beehive Natural Foods, the health-food store with overstuffed shelves crammed to the gills with dusty vitamin jars, Nag Champa incense, remedies and drugs is set to move by December to a new space at 6490 Bird Road.
Regulars fret over the future of the hole-in-the-wall Beehive Juice Bar and restaurant counter in the back of this ’70s time capsule. Chef Carlos Schicchi subleases space from Beehive owner Bob Penna, who has been here since 1980.
“I’m nervous. People are concerned [about] where he’s going to go and want to follow. I would like it to be around here,” said customer Ana Gloria who has lunched at the Beehive for six years. The tiny counter, manned by “juice king” Tom Neubert and Schicchi, “brings the community together in a healthy environment. They come because they like the ambience and the home cooking,” she said.
Penna and Schicchi hope to finalize a deal where their 23-year business arrangement can continue at the new location.
“We have our regular customers,” Penna said.
“Possibly,” Schicchi said hopefully of making the move in tandem. “It would be a good location right next to it and most likely we are going to keep that synergy with the health food store. We’ve been working with the community for many years, and now second- and third-generation kids from next-door at karate now bring their own kids.”