Grant Helps Restore, Repurpose Historic Ybor City Dry Goods Store
"Booky" Buchman and some pals meet on Friday mornings at a Ybor City restaurant. They sip café con leche, eat breakfast, and swap stories.
Their weekly rendezvous takes place less than one block from the building at 1910 E. Seventh Ave. where Booky's grandparents founded the Buchman Department Store in 1914.
The two-story building, which remained a department store until 1991, has been meticulously restored with the help of a Hillsborough County Historic Preservation Challenge Grant of $72,810. The grants are intended to preserve and repurpose landmark non-residential buildings, and promote heritage tourism and economic development in the county. Each grant, up to $250,000, must be matched on at least a one-to-one basis.
This year's recommended grants will go before the Board of County Commissioners in August.
The Buchmans were farmers and merchants when they immigrated to the United States from Romania in the late 1800s. J.M. Buchman, one of a dozen brothers, came to Hillsborough County, where he opened the store to sell dry goods to cigar workers and other Ybor residents.
The building, erected in 1908, is one of the oldest in the Ybor National Historic Landmark District.
Booky, born in 1944, recalls sweeping the floor at the store as a boy. He says his grandparents and parents would be pleased with the restoration, which includes a prominent metal "Buchman" sign, just like the original, extending from the building's second floor, over Seventh Avenue.
The building's owner, Ybor Patio LLC, received the County grant to help restore the sign, replace the roof, install new air-conditioning units, and enhance the facade. The former store now has three shops on the ground floor, and eight apartments upstairs, where the Buchman family once lived.
Jonathan Scanlon owns a pottery studio that recently opened downstairs, where the Buchmans sold clothing, bed sheets, and other merchandise. Jonathan says the building's historic ambiance and location on Seventh Avenue, Ybor's main retail corridor, were "just what I was looking for."
The building's transition from a department store and subsequent businesses - it once housed the Blues Ship Cafe - to today's retail/residential use reflects Ybor's metamorphosis. It also jibes with a current emphasis on providing more places for people to live in Ybor.
"I've seen it come. I've seen it go. And now, I'm seeing it come back," Booky says of the historic community. "I love Ybor City. That's just my style."