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Lee's Grocery Becomes Another Buoy for Tampa Heights Neighborhood

Lee's Grocery recently entered a new phase in its 115-year history, TBO.com reports.

Another spot in Tampa Heights has come to symbolize how things are slowly and steadily changing in the city's oldest neighborhood. explains how  has been converted from a run-down corner store to a hip pizza and beer cafe.

For the Seminole Heights-centric, picture a and rolled into one. 

With eclectic decor, a selection of craft and imported beers and menu of gourmet stone-baked pizzas, Lee's not only has shed its former incarnation as an eyesore in Tampa Heights' ongoing struggle to gentrify. It has become a dramatic demarcation point between the neighborhood's dual identities as blighted urban core and revitalized historic showcase. 

Before 24-year-old Jennifer Hathcock bought the 115-year-old store and reopened it in December, no loitering signs and vagrants often festooned Lee's, TBO.com reported. Its stock eventually dwindled to little more than cigarettes, single cans of malt liquor and lottery tickets. 

But with the help of partner Troy Taylor, Hathcock gutted the place and, according to TBO.com, "the kitchen was upgraded and a stone-oven installed. Tile flooring and a color-speckled drop ceiling were added. Refrigerators were stocked with craft beers and soda. Gourmet coffee and pizza went on the menu. WiFi was installed."

The store name remained because it's so iconic, Hathcock told TBO.com. 

And now, besides becoming a popular draw with its own customers, Lee's has become a civically engaged business, hosting and supporting neighborhood groups, TBO.com reports. 

Hathcock, according to TBO.com, is owns a real estate investment company and also bartends at the Independent, along with Taylor. 

Are there other businesses in Tampa Heights that represent what the neighborhood is becoming, or what it should evolve away from? Tell us in the comments. 

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