Inagural Blues, BBQ & Berries Draws Folks to Evers Street in Downtown Plant City
by James Coulter
Matthew Morrow loves craft beer. His wife loves books. So they brought their two loves together to open The Tipsy Bookworm, a combination craft beer bar and a used bookstore in Downtown Plant City.
Morrow has been brewing craft beer for the past six years. Through his experience, he offers a diverse selection of craft beer and wine at his bar. His wife, meanwhile, sells a wide array of used books. Their homey downtown venue is a locale where locals can mingle with a cup of beer in one hand and a good book in another.
“We love it. We are really invested in it at this point,” Morrow said. “An opportunity to come into the community was really strong…So we decided to come into the community and do something different.”
The Tipsy Bookworm was one of the many unique businesses to open within the past year along Evers Street in Downtown Plant City. These new businesses participated in the inaugural Blues, BBQ & Berries event last Saturday evening.
Morrow loved the excellent barbecue and music. He especially loved the overall vibe, with the whole community coming together to have a good time and enjoy many of the new businesses along Evers Street, including his own.
“It is cool to see stuff like this and be part of a really organic event,” he said.
The Tipsy Bookworm was one of three new businesses that participated in the inaugural Blues BBQ & Berries event in Downtown Plant City last Saturday. True to its name, the event offered live music performed on stage, old-fashioned barbecue served by local vendors, and an overall celebration in the city of berries.
Also participating that evening was The Corner Store, Roots on Tap, and 3 Hand Mead. The latter is a brewery that makes a variety of mead through their on-site production facility.
Cody Lenz started 3 Hand Mead nearly a year ago. His brewery was one of many new venues that opened within the past year along Evers Street, which has experienced immense growth during that time.
“We have seen that there is a lot of growth here downtown, and we wanted to be a part of it and help support it however we can,” Lenz said. “It is really amazing to see how dormant the block has been for so long and how vibrant it is now.”
The Plant City Photo Archives and History Center also used the opportunity to open its doors and showcase its newest exhibit. Gill Gott, museum head, has been involved with the Improvement League of Plant City to help promote growth and redevelopment along Evers Street, especially with the cultural aspect of downtown.
Currently, his museum has more than 12,000 photographs. While they can’t show them all at once, they showcase some of them in themed displays, such as their most recent about summer recreation. Even during such a busy event, they’ve managed to draw in some curious visitors.
“You never know what to expect,” Gott said. “People just come in, and they are surprised by what they see. Sometimes, people want to look around, and two hours later, they are still here.”
Several local bands took to the stage to play their music. For Jose Ramirez, the front of the titular Ramirez Band from Tampa, this was his first time in Plant City. Of course, it was not his first time visiting the city, but being able to perform there allowed him to see a sleepy small town with the potential for vibrant nightlife.
“I really like the vibe they are trying to implement into the city at his point,” Ramirez said. “We are very excited to be part of this event. It looks like a family close down-home kind of reunion and we are very excited to be [here] as a headliner.”
Blues BBQ & Berries was hosted by the Improvement League of Plant City and the Community Development Corporation, a 40-plus-year-old non-profit that serves the greater Plant City area. Recently, the organization has been integral in revitalizing the downtown area at Evers Street.
William Thomas Jr., the event coordinator, started the event to help showcase the recent development of the Evers Street area and to demonstrate the potential the site has for a vibrant nightlife. Especially with the pandemic winding down, he wanted to host the event to help bring people outside and downtown again.
“We are trying to get back to normalcy,” he said. “Doing a venue outdoors in a street that is closed off kind of allows us to leeway into that.”
Evers Street is a one-block section at the northwest edge of the city’s historic downtown. Roots Taphouse was the first of the new businesses to open in that district, which prompted many more to follow in its footsteps. Thomas wanted to highlight this development through the event and hopefully inspire more events soon.
“Our goal is to support those businesses by providing venues and activities to encourage people to come out and support local and buy local,” he said. “According to the city, we can expect to block off the street permanently, as well as [provide other] enhancements, considering the location and feasibility. So we look forward to what the city has to offer.”
Solution Source, a local construction company that offers development for residential and commercial, served as a sponsor that evening. Mike Jemison, Chief Operating Officer, and his company have been deeply involved with the redevelopment of Downtown Plant City.
“We have several projects coming downtown, [with] new construction as well as redevelopment of existing buildings that will bring the activity back to Downtown Plant City, and, hopefully, we can be like downtown Lakeland in the near future,” he said.
As for the event, he was proud to participate at the many venues for whom his company made way by redeveloping most of the units. Overall, he enjoyed the overall lively vibe and atmosphere, and he hopes that his endeavors will allow for more events in the future.
“I am looking forward to some great music and great food and entertainment and hanging out with our friends here in downtown,” he said.