For years, an ever-present "For Lease" sign stood outside the empty modernistic, white Glauser dealership on Osprey Avenue between Mound Street and Ringling Boulevard. Then last July, Dr. Mark Kauffman purchased it from Barbara Glauser for $1.9 million, and nailed down an anchor tenant, Sarasota Commercial Management, which handles the leasing of his development projects.

"They've exploded and needed a bigger space," says Kauffman, who says the former owner of the building had a hard time finding a tenant because "he was asking way above market rents." Kauffman will be renting the space for $22 a foot. The project is something of a family affair: Kauffman's daughter, attorney Mindy Parker, is the broker/owner of Sarasota Commercial Management, and Parker's husband, Micah Parker of Micah Parker Artworks, will be occupying another 2,000-plus square feet. Sarasota Property Management is also negotiating with the owner of an upscale coffee shop for the building. One space is still available for lease.

Kauffman also owns property across the street from the old Glauser building, just south of a drycleaner. The three-quarters of an acre is adjacent to Bayou Office Center, which he also owns. He plans to build a two- or three-story building and is negotiating with a local, high-end furniture store to occupy the space. Architect Yehuda Inbar says the building will be modern in style, and very simple and clean, with a showroom on the bottom floor and offices and storage space above.

Kauffman says his two latest projects won't alter the look of the quaint, historic downtown Laurel Park neighborhood, which is a mix of residential and commercial. "It will be a nice entry to the area," he says.

Plaza at Five Points signs restaurant franchise.

The Grape, an Atlanta-based wine bar and restaurant chain, is slated to open a 2,600-square-foot, first-floor location at Five Points Plaza next summer. Ian Black of Ian Black Real estate, Five Points' broker, says "We're ahead of schedule getting tenants-it's easier to attract tenants when you've got bricks to kick."

The Grape selected Five Points over Southgate Plaza and St. Armands Circle. Known for its cork flooring, wood interiors, parachute-fabric seating and Italian lighting, The Grape offers a retail wine shop and wine bar featuring its entire inventory of 120 wines. A copyrighted classification system helps customers choose wines that match their taste preferences.

The Grape's first location opened in Atlanta in 2000, and since March 2004, 15 franchises have been awarded. Another 15 to 20 company stores are in development for Georgia, Florida, Alabama, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky. Six are scheduled to open by the end of first quarter 2005, including Jacksonville. Sarasota will be The Grape's second Florida address.

"Why Sarasota?" muses Marty Thallman, president of The Grape. "We're targeting Florida as our primary market. There is always the issue of seasonality in tourist locations, but Sarasota is a no-brainer. The demographics offer an affluent, year-round market. We look at household incomes, the number of people per household, ages, and so on, to identify how many times people are going to eat out. In Atlanta, for example, it's 4.4 nights out on average. In Sarasota, it's safe to say it's a couple of times a week that people go out for a dining experience."

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