St. Pete artist seeks community help in revitalizing family’s historic Atwaters building

​​”I can't let this legacy die.”

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click to enlarge St. Pete artist seeks community help in revitalizing family’s historic Atwaters building
Photo by Adam Cole Boehm
Last spring, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay reported that south St. Pete’s iconic Atwaters restaurant was looking for someone to continue its legacy. Eight months later, a family member has stepped up to the table.

St. Pete rapper and artist Two (stylized as "ONLYONETWO") is the grandson of the Atwater's Cafeteria owners Elzo and Mattie Atwater and the nephew of its most recent tenant, Eric Atwater aka “Cook-E-Man.”

A recent car accident and tragic loss of a loved one inspired Two to start revitalizing  his family's historic space—but he can’t do it alone.

On Saturday-Sunday, Jan. 21-22 from 10 a.m - 5 p.m., Two welcomes volunteers to help him clean the Atwaters space at 895 22nd Ave. S in St. Pete. Wear closed-toe shoes and clothes you don’t mind getting dirty,  and bring any protective gear (gloves, masks, etc.) you may have.
“The plan was always to save capital and reinvest it into the family business but since COVID and the recent gentrification in the city, times have been hard for all of us,” Two tells CL. “That's why I'm reaching out to the community, the family, the whole Tampa Bay area and my fans telling them that we need help. I can't let this legacy die.”

As of now, Two—who prefers to be addressed by his pseudonym—doesn’t have a clear vision of what his now-closed family restaurant will become. Before he sits down with family members to discuss the future of the building, a massive amount of cleaning and renovations must take place.

Two says that his uncle, Eric Atwater, has been dealing with serious medical issues—the same ones that caused the 47 year-old to retire last year—and has stepped away from the family business until his health is in order.
During 2020's pandemic, Eric often gave free food away to children and other members of the surrounding community, continuing the family's philanthropic legacy that his parents started decades ago.

Although the building has a bright future, Two assures that it will still “maintain remnants and memories of the foundation that built this legacy.”

“I also want to thank my grandparents Elzo & Mattie Awater for teaching us respect, integrity, how to maintain healthy relationships, time management skills, keeping our faith in GOD, good manners, empathy, a positive attitude, love, inner beauty and passion," Two says. "They let us know regardless of how much money you have, it’s important to keep in mind that money isn't everything and no matter the race, color, or creed we must treat everyone as an equal.”

Elzo and Mattie Atwater bought the St. Pete building in 1977 and ran the cafeteria-style restaurant with the help of their nine children. It often was a gathering place for local Black politicians, civic organizations and church groups throughout the '80s and '90s.

If you’re unable to physically help Two revitalize his family’s historic southside space next weekend, feel free to donate to the cause via @sevawwaves on Venmo,  $onlyonetwo on CashApp, or [email protected] on Paypal.

For more information on the  family's significant contribution to St. Pete history, head to the Weekly Challenger, where you'll find dozens of articles about the Atwaters and their local legacy. 

About The Author

Kyla Fields

Kyla Fields is the Managing Editor of Creative Loafing Tampa Bay who started their journey at CL as summer 2019 intern. They are the proud owner of a charming, sausage-shaped, four-year-old rescue mutt named Piña.
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