The Veytia family, the owners of the Red Mesa restaurant brand, have fueled St. Pete’s growing culinary scene over the past 40 years with different concepts, and they are now preparing to expand the footprint.
Pete Veytia, a son of the original founders, and partner Executive Chef Chris Fernandez are in the midst of planning and designing a second Red Mesa Mercado location, at 6001 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg, where Two Graces and Reading Room formerly operated.
“We have been eyeballing that space for a long time,” Veytia said, explaining he and the team are meticulously forming the plans on flipping the 1950s building. “We are trying to keep the neighborhood vibe as much as we can. People have to understand there were multiple operations in that space that didn’t work in that setting.”
There isn’t a set opening date, but Veytia expects to complete the renovation in eight to 12 months, subject to permitting and other variables.
The Red Mesa Group has operated in St. Pete since 1995, first opening the Red Mesa Restaurant at 4th Street. In 2008, Red Mesa Cantina opened on 3rd Street. The last brick-and-mortar concept, Red Mesa Mercado, opened in 2014 at 1100 1st Ave. N. The business group has a total of 230 employees.
The Mercado concept features an urban drive-by dining style, and serves indigenous dishes from Southern California.
The new Mercado restaurant will have 240 seats and an outdoor bar.
“We have spent three months deciding where the windows will go. Visually, it’s like fitting a square peg into a round hole,” Veytia said. The building, he added, has “great bones” but does have structural challenges that could bottleneck and hinder the traditional Mercado layout.
“We are still waiting on the final plans, but we are not rushing this. It is going to be a destination that we will be tremendously proud of,” he said, adding that his mother and father are involved with the design.
The site strays from the bustling concentrated Central Avenue retail and restaurant area, but it’s near freeFall Theatre and other gathering spots.
“That’s why we are building this here; we are trying to keep up with the customers. There’s been restaurant after restaurant waiting for the ‘gold rush’ but that takes a while to sustain. This is an untapped opportunity,” Veytia said, explaining how the site will attract beachgoers and residents.
Veytia said the delivery operations at the existing Mercado location have been exceptional and he expects the second Mercado site to see similar activity.
“This is a passion of ours. Whether we have three or five restaurants, we do the same thing every day,” he said. He and his team make daily rounds visiting each restaurant location, ensuring the food quality is on par with the brand.
“There’s never a perfect time to open a restaurant. You have to have the right opportunity in the economy, and a great amount of capital and labor – but it never works out like that. You try to check two or three boxes and when it happens, it happens,” Veytia said.
In addition to the second Mercado concept, the group also recently launched Quatro, an Americana cuisine food truck, that is parked outside Webb’s City Cellar and Green Bench.
“As we grow, we want to elevate what we do and what’s helped us improve the branding and our chef-focused food,” Veytia said about curating specific menus at each location. “We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t do one dish at a time for 40 years.”