Pop culture: Three new concepts popping up at Centro Ybor

At Centro Ybor, The Hyppo, Fish Hawk Spirits and Thai Asiatic have snagged vacant spaces.

Gourmet ice pops, a craft distillery and Thai food are making their way to Centro Ybor.

The Ybor City shopping, entertainment and dining complex is seeing movement in three vacant spaces at 1600 E. Eighth Ave., whose windows are covered with brown paper.

In the old Joffrey's Coffee & Tea Company outpost, The Hyppo Gourmet Ice Pops has a "coming soon" sign posted at the E100 building.

The producer of specialty popsicles, founded in St. Augustine in 2010, first familiarized the Bay area with its funky flavors and ingredients in downtown St. Pete. No preservatives or colors are used to create its ice pops in flavors like rosemary apple, blackberry clove and mango habanero.

Ybor's Hyppo is expected to debut sometime in summer.

Next door, at the E108 location once home to Pita's Republic, there's a logo up for Ocala-based craft distiller Fish Hawk Spirits.

Master distiller and COO Matthew Bagdanovich and CEO David Molyneaux confirmed to CL Thursday afternoon that the 1,500-square-foot space will serve as a Fish Hawk distillery, tasting room and retail gift shop. In addition to being the historic district's second distillery, the Ybor location is also the second tasting room for Fish Hawk. The first, inside a former downtown Gainesville speakeasy bar, will launch in about a week, while Tampa shoots for an Aug. 1 opening.

Molyneaux spent lots of time scoping out potential sites in Tampa Bay — from downtown Tampa and Clearwater to Hyde Park and Channelside — for this latest outpost. But Ybor won him over.

"It's just the perfect location for a tasting room," he says, noting highlights like cigar shops, restaurants and hotels that contribute to the neighborhood's foot traffic.

The company will continue to do most of the work at its farm headquarters in Marion County, bringing what are close-to-finished products to Ybor, then completing the distilling process and selling bottles in-house. Why? The CEO says it's difficult for Fish Hawk to process state-grown crops like watermelon, tangerines and blueberries in a small space. 

The distillery takes its "farm-to-bottle" mantra seriously, by the way, whether that means picking up oats for whiskey or blueberries for vodka directly. Often times, ingredients come from a farmer within 100 miles of their home base, Bagdanovich says, adding that they forego using ethanol, preservatives or artificial colors and flavors.

"We actually make every drop," according to the master distiller. "We try to control as much as we can in the production process."

Florida distilleries — there are 20 or so — aren't permitted to function the same way bars do. Thus, the Ybor storefront will offer samples of Fish Hawk's premium spirits, various retail items (think cocktail stirrers and mixers) and bottle purchases, including in-store-only signatures like a one-of-a-kind whiskey.

A Thai restaurant called Thai Asiatic is also set to open on the ground floor of Centro Ybor. It's planned for the D101 building, where Fresh Mouth used to operate.

Taped to one of the space's brown papered windows is a City of Tampa building permit. According to the permit, issued to design-build firm Laeqali & Associates Inc., the interior is currently under renovation.

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