Listen to the interview here:

Mike Harting talks St. Pete’s evolution, his entrepreneurial endeavors, and the burgeoning arts and brewing scene.
On this episode of SPx, we throw back to last May, when Joe sat down with Mike Harting to talk through St. Pete’s past, it’s evolving present, and what’s coming for the future. Touching on topics ranging from arts and culture, to business and development – from Central avenue’s spotty history, to its smashing independent business scene – this conversation has something for everyone. This interview was originally shot on video. Head to the show notes on to watch instead of listen.

Key Insights:
Mike Harting grew up in St. Petersburg. He can tell you first hand how much it has changed in his lifetime. When he was kid, they weren’t allowed to go south of 9th Avenue N because it wasn’t safe. Strip clubs lined Central Avenue, and nothing resembling the restaurant boom of today existed downtown.
When Harting was in high school, the Vinoy was boarded up, “The high school thing was trying to sneak through, one end of the Vinoy, typically this center where they’re building the new condos, and just run all the way through it, out the back.”
Harting is part-owner, along with our former guest, Ryan Griffin, of Souzou, an upscale Japanese restaurant on the outskirts of downtown St. Pete. Their bet? St. Pete will grow into its location, and flourish around it.
The city has undertaken an effort to connect the Deuces and the Warehouse arts district to Central Avenue. They’ve doing streetscape improvements and enhancing walkability to spur foot traffic to the historically African American district, just South of Harting’s brewery, 3 Daughters.
Thoughts on gentrification: “I think it’s a great thing to gentrify. I think what’s happening on 4th street is awesome, I think what’s happening in the Industrial District is awesome. I think it’s organic and the city I think became very aware of it and started to support it.”
The city play’s a major part in the revitalization of these areas, especially in industrial areas: “The Industrial District is governed by statutes and city code that is nothing but built for an Industrial District. And when the city comes in and decides that we need to put in better lightning, we need to put in sidewalks that don’t exist, I think that is what supports it – and they have. So I’m very excited about what is gonna happen to the street that’s in front of our building that was built just for 18-wheelers.”
St. Pete is known for its thriving independent business, especially down the Central Avenue corridor, even large corporate entities have taken notice, “But it’s interesting that I come from the corporate world, I come from Outback Steakhouse. And Outback very decidedly wrote off downtown St. Pete. And when we looked at – and this is part of one of my areas and we looked at – there are 89 Outback’s in the state of Florida now, they’re in some small places, but they truly looked at downtown St. Pete and said, ‘We can’t compete with the locals.’”
There’s work to do: “I think the county has some work to do on the public school system, but the private sector has really truly – I was born and raised in the military, lived all over the place and I find it very interesting that the private sector, however you define that in the school system, has looked at this and said: it’s a neat place, we need better schools. We’ll just do it on our own.”
The waterfront parks system: “or me we start with the fact that this city was able to preserve really neat parts of its geography. Find another city in Florida that owns two miles of waterfront property. That is not unique, and that’s far beyond amazing.”
The Pier as a way to showcase our waterfront: “The pier to me is the crown jewel. The two miles of waterfront is the meat of it.”
The Pier Park: “what they are designing becomes much more usable, it becomes much more pedestrian, it becomes much more of a destination for the citizens of St Pete with better offerings, aside from a bait shop that it was before. But I think the ultimate value is that iconic picture that’s gonna come out of it.”
Thoughts on Beach Drive: “I don’t think Beach Drive is done yet it. It needs to evolve, I think BellaBrava will be a part of it, Cassis will be a part of it. But there’s more to come out of Beach Drive than what it is right now.”
Local brewers: “We have Doug at Cycle, who really is a true artist, we have Chris at Green Bench, who really is making specific beers and really getting known around the country, and then Ty at 3 Daughters. And so the self-fulfilling part is that we’re growing brewers and it’s an industry that you don’t just go and learn anywhere, you need somebody like the guys that I just mentioned, to study under.”
Breweries as gathering points: “I think that in the United States that has really been looked at and held close in that we need to build gathering points. And so the breweries that you see today, they are – they physically look like a brewery but they feel… I think that the industry has done a great job of making them feel more like gathering points.”
Distilling in St. Pete, “Yeah, the third distillery – American Freedom – is… well, they’re distilling and they’re just starting to do some parties and they’re right down the street from us. Really, really neat group of guys.”
“The brewery itself has about maybe 20% of the capacity that it can do, so we have a lot of work to do there, and the cidery is really my big project. And so I think this one is gonna be a while, there’s too much fun to be had in doing this.”
Mike’s shout-out? Beth Houghton at the Free Clinic. “Free Clinic has been around since the ‘20s and has always done great work, but Beth has now grown it into a much bigger, more important part of our society in terms of taking care of those amongst us who need some help.”


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