French bakery flourishes in downtown St. Pete


Streets along the Tampa Bay waterfront flood with a mixture of tropical colors. Hues of greens, blues and yellows pop against the cloudless sky on Beach Drive.

Skyscraping condos and small businesses share the small spaces between the land and the bay. The streets are littered with cars and small motorized bikes. The sun shines on shoppers eagerly entering and leaving the intricately decorated stores while strolling the sidewalks during the bright and humid afternoons.

Nestled directly in the middle of all the bustle and excitement is a taste of France.

Cassis Bakery is part of what used to be called Cassis American Brasserie. Its new name is Cassis St. Pete to avoid confusion and connect with the local culture. Cassis Bakery’s pastry chef, Katherine Williams, says the French-style restaurant is very convenient.

“Brasserie is sort of a thing in France that caters to all different times of the day,” said Williams. “Whether you want to get a cup of coffee, come in and get breakfast, or if you want to come in and have a nice dinner and a glass of wine, a brasserie caters to all that.”

Williams became the pastry chef at Cassis after her boss stepped down in January 2017. She graduated from USF with a degree in English but decided to pursue pastry at the Art Institute of Tampa after falling in love with her college hobby.

Starting at Cassis right after graduating, she now manages the entire bakery. Her responsibilities include scheduling, ordering inventory and recipe testing.

“I like to make sure we have seasonal stuff that’s fresh, Florida flavors, which we didn’t have much of before,” said Williams. “But also keeping a balance of French traditional style.”

This is the fruit tart at the Cassis Bakery on Beach Drive in St. Pete. Photo taken by Rachel Rowan.

The Cassis Bakery is a completely separate business from their savory counterpart, which is a French-American style restaurant that is one swinging door away from the quaint French bakery.

Running the kitchen is Chef Jeremy Duclut. He offers French fare such as French onion soup, braised escargot and a croque monsieur. Duclut also offers Bahn Mi sliders, fried chicken and a roasted cauliflower head. It is a menu that seems to appeal to every palette.

Not only is Cassis a region in France, it is also a food ingredient known as black currant. It carries the same flavor as a dark grape or sour blueberry. Both the bakery and restaurant carry on the Cassis namesake by including the flavor into their recipes.

Williams said that Cassis’ recent brand modernization shows that the restaurant and bakery dedicate themselves to bringing fresh flavors to the locals. At the same time, the brasserie is still dedicated to its French culinary traditions with a light American twist.

Both the bakery and the restaurant plan to remain a St. Pete staple and will continue to serve the community. Not only does Cassis love their patrons, it also loves their fellow businesses. The bakery tries to collaborate whenever possible.

4th annual Sarasota music marathon a major hit

Runners and spectators alike were treated to a unique musical marathon Sunday morning at the 4th annual Sarasota Music Half Marathon.

The event, which features both 10K and half marathon events through the city of Sarasota, does things a little differently. The race includes live performances from local musical acts scattered throughout the course. The result is a high energy event, drawing adept running and fresh challengers from local areas and abroad to experience the sights and sounds of Sarasota.

The course began at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, leading runners through local areas such as St. Armands Circle, along the Sarasota Bayfront and over the Ringling Bridge. Along the course, 18 bands ranging in genre from rock and soul to reggae and marching bands played for four hours, offering encouragement and ambiance to runners—and a free show for spectators.

Beginning at 6:30 a.m., runners had four hours to finish the 13.1 mile half marathon course and return back to the Van Wezel.  The runners were greeted with an event medal and invited to a festival-style after party, complete with a buffet, beer garden and yet another musical act.

The event, sponsored by Metro Diner, began in 2015 and adds musical acts as a unique twist on the common marathon. This year over 1,700 runners completed the half marathon route.

Attendance was high on the streets as well, despite the early start, as spectators cheered, waved signs and enjoyed the musical stylings being offered right in their own proverbial front yards.

Registration for the 2019 Sarasota Music Half Marathon has already begun and can be found at 

New nonprofit shows the keys to kindness

Keys to Kindness is a nonprofit organization based in the Odessa community. It will open its new storefront Keys to Kindness Gifts, and Gatherings on Feb. 17, 2018. The store will serve as a platform for small businesses and connect the community.

Along with the motto of “be kind,” the slogan of this store is “buy a gift, make a gift, give a gift and be a gift.” Keys to Kindness is known for placing keys out in the community with a note about kindness attached. The founder and executive director, Sharri Cagle, receives help making these keys from her 14-year-old son, who makes them with his 3D printer.

“With the keys that are made, my kids are doing it, other kids are doing it, said Cagle. So, it’s a way for them to give back, and have hands in it. And it has a tag attached to it about kindness. And then we’ll attach them to the birdhouses and put them throughout the community, as well as just having keys placed throughout the community.”

Buying a gift aspect of the store, entails purchasing merchandise from small businesses that sell their products in the store.

“We really wanted to give it a hometown feel, said Cagle. So, we have different vendors in here from students that graduated last year and it’s their first year in college, who started up their own business, it’s incredible and inspiring. To a Navy seal who makes the most beautiful wood pieces. There is a neighborhood friend that makes candles and soaps, and a mom, who is helping put her kids through college, and makes fabric pieces, like dog collars and leashes. I like it cause it’s a good variety. Each gift is an intentional gift and has a meaning to it.”

The making a gift aspect of the gifts and gatherings shop allows customers to come in and paint or create a personal gift for themselves or someone on their mind. There are lots of wooden birdhouses, jewelry boxes, and other items that can be painted in the store. “And with the make a gift, you’ll get a free birdhouse; which is another way of us giving back to the community, and you get to paint it and we put it out in the community for you with a tag attached with one of our keys.”

Giving a gift and being a gift is also what the store gives customers the opportunity to do. The store gives the gift of holding workshops for book clubs, birthday parties and groups of all ages. It also is an important environment for Keys to Kindness to hold pet therapy for veterans suffering from PTSD or kids with special needs. The opening of a storefront will not only give Keys to Kindness an actual home for all their “kind causes” but will help people of the community be a gift of kindness to everyone around.

“Our grand opening falls on national kindness day, and we are asking the community to come together and help us put out 2,018 acts of kindness out in the community. So, when they show up they will get a free kind gift, and that’s one act of kindness being shared, and if they bring tennis shoes which is what we are collecting for those in need, that is another act of kindness. So, we are hoping to do 2,018 acts of kindness in one day.”

Come out anytime between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 17. The address is 8738 north Mobley Rd, Odessa FL to join all the grand opening activities. You can check out all the small business’ products throughout the store and get to meet the rescue dog, Sadie. There will be a bounce house and fun activities for kids, raffles and free kind gifts for adults and food catered by, Three Brothers pizza and Fro. Dough. You will not want to miss this out!

All media and story information, by Deanna Salt.

Bean Garden brings new art to St. Pete

The Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg unveiled a new interactive installation last month called “The Bean Garden.”

Sitting in the center of the Atchison gallery is what appears to be a sand box.  The Bean Garden is filled with 2,500 pounds of dried great northern beans surrounded in a frame of solid juniper. It took about six museum employees to pour in all of the beans.

This interactive piece was created by Allison Knowles as part of the Fluxus movement, a period of art history that the museum hasn’t addressed before. According to MFA Curator Katherine Pill, it’s exciting for the museum to be able to fill in the gap of art history to showcase an incredible female performance artist.

“It is so cool to be able to feature a woman artist, it brings a lot to this museum,” Pill said.

The Bean Garden encapsulates a lot of the ideas of the Fluxus movement.  It is uniquely situated at MFA where usually you are not allowed to touch the artwork. Fluxus asks: who deems art? It says art is for everyone,  it should be treated as such. Employees expressed that it is an interesting statement to be exploring at the museum.

MFA borrowed this exhibit from a gallery in South Florida. According to Pill, the curator of the museum, Jade Dellinger, is an incredible source for Fluxus art.

“For Allison Knowles the artist, she was interested in the nourishment and the comfort that comes from food and its ability to bring people together.” Pill said.

Guests are invited to take off their shoes, put on the socks provided and then enter the installation, with  three people allowed to enter at a time. There is a sound box at the bottom of the Bean Garden. When you walk in it, it amplifies the sound made, casting a loud crunching sound that some find entertaining. 

Employees at the museum hope that there’s even a sense of camaraderie that comes over someone when they enter the exhibit. The Bean Garden was created to showcase an important message of art, but to also be a release of energy. When people enter the Bean Garden it brings them back to a “child-like” state. This was the artist’s intentions. The artists thought it was important for people to relax and have fun. She stressed that if you can combine the beauty of art and create a fun aspect then you have completed your mission.

Tampa Bay Central Avenue tours celebrate black history

TAMPA — Central Avenue was once the center of black life in Tampa. Now historians want to share its rich history and preserve its spirit for generations to come.

Built by emancipated slaves and freemen, Central Avenue was the heart of The Scrub, the first African-American neighborhood in Tampa.

With as many as 200 black-owned businesses on and around it, Central Avenue thrived for years.

This changed in 1967 with the death of 19-year-old Martin Chambers who was suspected of burglary and killed by police. His death sparked riots that lasted three days and ultimately destroyed Central Avenue.

Fred Hearns, noted historian and Tampa local, leads tours that highlight the cultural significance and history of the area.

Hearns works in partnership with the Tampa Bay History Center to host these tours on the last Saturday of every month, aside from some summer months.

The tour explores Central Avenue as it is today. It begins at the Robert Saunders Public Library on North Nebraska Avenue. The library is named after Saunders, who led the Tampa Chapter of the NAACP for many years.

Taken by Emily McCain

There is a stone wall outside the library with paintings preserved from the building’s past. You can explore the inside of the library, which archives and displays much of the history of Central Avenue. Guests can also appreciate the $7 million renovation the library received in 2015.

The library also features a Hall of History with interactive displays that bring you into Tampa’s past. They showcase the history of black athletes, churches, small artifacts and more. It also has a library dedicated to African-American genealogy and history.

Taken by Emily McCain

The tour then moves outside the library to Perry Harvey Sr. Park. Larger than life statues and history carved into the sidewalk, the park tells Central Avenue’s story. The displays are thanks to a $6.3 million renovation that took place in 2016.

The park features sections of optical tiles that change as you walk by them. There is also a walkway known as Leader Row. Stained concrete and cut aluminum showcase notable leaders from Central Avenue.

Nancy Dalence, Curator of Education at the Tampa Bay History Center, has worked closely with Hearns since the tours began in fall 2016. She says Hearns is one of the best black history historians in the area who brings his own accounts to the tour.

“Everybody [who] has been on the tour has just been amazed at how much history they didn’t know,” Dalence said.

“[There’s] just so many connections to great stories and it’s a really important part of our history. People just didn’t know it was here, and thanks to Fred, now they do.”

To sign up or learn more about these tours and others, you can visit

Student explores hijabi stories through art

From the outside, Sara Filali looks like a normal college student – but once she breaks out her pad and pencil, everything changes.

At 20 years old, Filali is already a self-taught artist and successful businesswoman. Her self-owned business, Filali Studios, gives her a platform to sell her art in various forms such as prints, stickers and phone cases. She also accepts requests for commissioned art, which has included being a live painter at a friend’s wedding.

Filali makes art because she enjoys it. Selling it is only a perk, she says.

“I like doing it,” says Filali. “This is something that me, a broke college kid, can do in my spare time. Which combines what I really like doing and also what I really need – which is money.”

At the beginning of her business journey, Filali was afraid.

“I had to put a value on the art that I was originally just making for myself,” said Filali. “I was afraid that the person I was offering my price to would reject it, and therefore reject the value that I was putting in my own art.”

Hailing from Morocco, Filali feels a deep connection to her ethnicity, which she shows in her art. Various symbols that are prevalent throughout Morocco’s history show up in her pieces. Although she didn’t grow up there, her drawings take on the aspects of a culture she was raised in, inspired by the stories told to her by her parents and grandmother.

“Growing up, my culture has always been a big part of my identity – it’s a part of who I am, my language, my roots.”

Some of her pieces are illustrations of stories she grew up hearing. Others embody the strong features of Moroccan women.

“I value my roots being seen – especially living in the USA, where Moroccan culture is not very prominent,” said Filali. “You don’t see a lot of art that reflects the other side without using orientalism.”

Beyond showcasing her culture, Filali is very passionate about representation in her works. A lot of her pieces depict women like herself who wear a hijab, which is a religious headscarf. She says this is not only to represent hijabis in her art, but also because she wants to explore different mediums with hijabis as the subject.

Sara Filali with one of her paintings featuring a woman wearing a hijab. Photo by Rayan Alnajar.

“I thought, ‘What if I were to mix pop art with hijab?’ Or, ‘What if I were to mix expressionism with hijab, or collage art?’” said Filali. “The hijabi woman is not a huge subject of art or analysis, it’s always something that’s feared or othered and not very celebrated within the world of art.”

In an effort to change that, Filali has created art featuring hijabis. She has helped solidify her place in cultural art by portraying underrepresented women.

“It’s not so much doing art that I think other people would find cool, it’s more so me, as the individual, what kind of art do I want to see?” Filali says.

To view her pieces, follow her Instagram @sara_filali . To buy her pieces, visit her website