St. Pete ranked among America’s biggest ‘boomtowns,’ small businesses hope to stay at the heart of city

St. Petersburg was just named one of America's top "Boomtowns" for mid-sized cities. While small business owners say the economic growth is good for business, they also want to make sure the "boom" doesn't ruin the character of St. Pete. 

Tibetan singing bowl classes are one of the many gems you can find inside Gopali’s Imports. The store is tucked along an eclectic row of shops on Central Avenue in the city.

Alex Gopali first opened his store nine years ago and has seen St. Pete take off since then.

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"For the last three or four years, we’ve seen more people and more big buildings and more businesses," said Gopali.

He said more foot traffic passing his shop is good for business. But with St. Pete being ranked among America's "boomtowns" for mid-sized cities, Gopali also worries that it could cost small businesses in th area. 

"All businesses can't survive with the bigger rents," he said. "That's the thing everybody's worried about, you know, losing that beautiful local vibe, walking distance, people just helping little businesses."

Data shows from 2018 to 2022 St. Pete saw an 81% increase in business applications and the city’s GDP increased by 36%.

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Le Macaron French Pastries is one of the newest businesses on Central Avenue, having opened its doors six months ago. 

"St. Pete has really given us a lot of love. We feel welcome in this area. It's amazing," said Karamvir Singh, the owner of Le Macaron French Pastries. 

Singh said the character of St. Pete inspired him to open the dessert shop, boasting authentic French macarons.

"I feel that's the core of St. Pete, not a lot of commercialization and all that. Definitely, I feel local markets, local stores, boutiques and all that stuff is a very important part of St. Pete," he said.

As with any "boomtown" comes the concerns about congestion, parking, construction and whether small businesses can survive rising rents. 

"Definitely a lot of construction going on, but I feel the next few years, this market is going to be amazing," said Singh.


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