Maria Merello and his wife want to take the residents of St. Pete into a two-dimensional world, making them feel like they’re stepping into an illustration by creating a new immersive experience in the Grand Central District – the 2D Café.
The owners, both named Maria, plan to hold a grand opening Friday for the restaurant at 2105 Central Ave.
The Merellos said they fell in love with the concept two years after reading about the popularity of 2D cafes emerging in Tokyo.
“I started studying the concept and saw that it didn’t exist in the United States. [at the time]”, Merello said. “It’s so hard to find a new experience that hasn’t been created yet.”
Since signing a lease for the space in December, Merello has made some interior aesthetic upgrades to the space and added arches inside. She worked with local artist Chad Mize, who designed the comic book-like flat illustration by outlining the storefront with bold black lines in a monochrome black and white scheme – creating a unique experience for people to enjoy. escape from reality.
“The owners saw my previous work and contacted me. It’s the biggest interior project I’ve ever done,” Mize said, describing how the big space seemed a little daunting at first.
Mize, who was assisted by another local artist, Andrea Pawlisz, worked on the brushstroke for a month during the interior construction.
The couple had reference photos, but Mize wanted to put his own artistic spin on it and included personal touches on the walls such as paintings of his dog, the Merellos’ cat, the initials of the couple’s children as well as “M+ M” for the two Marias.
He also painted windows on the walls depicting European landscapes, paying homage to Merello’s family roots.
Once open, the cafe will serve pastries, coffee, homemade empanadas and charcuterie boards served in a cone-shaped wrapper. It will be open Wednesday to Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
On securing space
The couple started looking for locations in October and considered buying a small bungalow to design different 2D rooms, with each room having a certain theme. however, they were determined to settle on Central Avenue.
“I’ve always had this neighborhood close to my heart,” Merello said, giving the St. Pete Catalyst a tour of the kitchen and dining room.
The space once housed the swah-rey bakery, which was bound by a lease agreement until a new tenant could take over the space.
Gary Dove, the landlord of the multi-tenant building, said that since it was announced that swah-rey was closing, he had received a flurry of interest.
“As soon as they announced it, I got 15 calls from people inquiring about space,” Dove said.
The Merellos contacted Jenna Malowany with Keller Williams Commercial, who then contacted Dove.
“I constantly take clients to the Grand Central District because it’s known as a supportive neighborhood and has enough traffic for local businesses to be successful,” Malowany said.
2D Café shares the building with neighbors Kava, On Pinte Dance Wear and Wendy’s Closet.