By: Kelly Littler, Emily Wolodkowicz, Sheena DeRocker, Macky Brazina and Candice Royer
There’s a thriving food business located inside the old Historic Seaboard Train Station that you may have never noticed passing by 22nd St. S. and crossing 5th Ave. S.
It could easily be one of St. Petersburg’s best kept secrets.
The CA Cafe, named after sisters, Corrie and Abbie opened in March of 2012 as a family business. Their specialty: deli-style sandwiches and drinks. Corrie Parker, the owner, said, “We had a rough start dealing with the city since it’s in a historic building. It took over a year and a half to open.”
The building — constructed in 1926 by the Tampa and Gulf Coast Railroad company — became the second railway line to enter St. Petersburg. The Seaboard Train Station operated as part of the Sealine Air Line Railroad as a freight depot until 1967.
In 1993, the City of St. Petersburg placed the Depot on the Local Historic Register. The building is made of brick, in masonry vernacular style, and is known as the cities only unaltered example of railroad architecture.
Seven years later, costing over a million dollars, a two-year renovation of the building was complete. Renovating, and adding personal touches were difficult to pass under the city’s strict standards.
“We had to make blueprints of our renovations, and get it approved which took several attempts, and a lot of re-drawings.”
The cafe isn’t allowed to have a sign out front, according to the St. Petersburg Historic Preservation Commision to keep the original design authentic. This reason alone makes it often difficult to attract new customers outside of their local community.
Without the attention that a normal sign usual brings, it is hard attracting a solid crowd, and a bigger following.
“I had a custom made sign for the cafe, hung it up outside, and the city immediately took it down,” Parker says that most of their advertising now is done through either word of mouth, or via social media platforms, such as Facebook, or Instagram.
After renovations were approved by the city, Parker’s father kept in mind the old building’s history, and decided to keep the cafe under a train station theme, and named all menu items after train terminology. Items such as The Caboose, The Coal Car Tuna Melt, and The Crew Car Chicken Caesar are some of the options to choose from.
The atmosphere of the cafe emotes coziness, the food is homemade, and the building itself is a vision of the past. A hidden gem that the city of St. Petersburg is lucky to call now a part of the community remains delightfully hidden but open for business.