When the Southern Recreation Center center opens next month as the revamped, much-expanded and shnazzed up Palm Coast Tennis Center off Belle Terre Parkway, you can expect avocado toast and chia pudding for breakfast, and for the rest of the day, kimchi chicken and chili crunch chicpea wraps, brisket sandwiches, cobb salads, kale slaw and basque cheesecake, to name just a few offerings by Redefined Food, which will run the center’s concessions. Plus a choice of cocktails, smoothies and beer, of course.
The Palm Coast City Council has awarded Redefined Food Co., a 5-year-old business based at City Marketplace in Palm Coast, the lease to run the food and drink concession at the most anticipated new community destination since the original Community Center on Palm Coast Parkway had its own grand re-opening, with a much bigger footprint, in the spring of 2018.
The Southern Rec Center, as the city likes to refer to it, is to be a combination community center, sports center and leisure venue, with two multipurpose rooms, a renovated clubhouse and a viewing balcony to overlook the center’s 12 new pickleball courts, 10 existing tennis courts and–yet to come–four new ones, including a stadium court.
The council may have been a bit traumatized by its last experience with a concession lease, when its renegotiation of an agreement with the Green Lion at the Palm Harbor Golf Club turned into a painful, protracted and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to keep that relationship going on different terms. The restaurant was eventually replaced by Loopers, owned by the current (relatively new) owner of Landing Strip Tavern, what used to be Hijackers, at the county airport.
Landing Redefined Food proved much less eventful, though the restrained terms of the lease reflect that recent experiences: it’s nothing too terribly long-term. The business will pay $837 a month in rent, or $10,000 a year (charged for the equivalent of $9 per square foot), increasing 3 percent annually. The tenant will be responsible for all electric, water, sewer, internet, communications and gas costs. It will have a five-year lease with a single option to renew for one year.
It was “due to the new center, not really sure how things will progress with the center, so we thought it would be safe to just keep it with one year one year renewal,” James Hirst, the city’s parks and recreation director, said. Palm Coast Mayor David Alfin and Council members Cathy Heighter and Theresa Pontieri thought the shortness of the term was “awkward” and “odd,” so Hirst said the terms may be altered.
Pontieri was also surprised by the minimum hours required for Redefined to operate: just four hours. “If that’s all they’re really bound to by contract, I have an issue with that,” she said, requesting an amendment. She is looking for more determined, and lengthier, hours. The facility itself would be open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends, with possibilities of lengthier hours as the city learns the moods of the center. Anyone from the public can stop by to eat or drink–not just athletes.
There were just two bidders. The other was World Plate Food Partner of Bunnell, established just last April by Erik Wiklund, a chef, and Susette Negron Wicklund, who own World Plate caterers, servicing a four-county area. Redefined Food will have first right of refusal when the Rec Center will need catering for its various events, but won’t necessarily be the only caterer there, so businesses like World Plate might still get the chance to showcase their offerings.
Hirst said Redefined won out (83.2 points to World Plate’s 52.2, out of a possible 100), because “the proposed menu was very detailed, offered what we were looking for–healthy grab and go kind of selections.” The bid opening required vendors to propose “innovative programs to track attendance to the center.” Redefined proposed some special events Hirst did not specify, but noted the QR codes that will be available on the courts for online orders, speeding up service for players. The tennis community, as vested as it is vocal when it comes to issues regarding the center, has been included in decisions regarding concessions, Hirst said.
The council got the benefit of a live review of Redefined by one of its most frequent customers, Lauren Ramirez, who was also one of the references Redefined included in its bid. “I have had the opportunity to actually order from redefined food over 400 meals,” Ramirez said, clarifying why: she is president of the Belle Terre Elementary PTO, which hosts frequent dances at the school and isn’t too fond of pizza. ”
We wanted something healthy, but something affordable,” Ramirez said. Redefined worked things out with her over months, delivering 400 meals–300 of them hot. “The experience we had was great, the feedback from the parents from the children. And when I heard that potentially this could be a bigger opportunity in our community to have Redefined Food, I was very excited,” she said, underscoring the healthy aspect of the company’s offerings.
Others who spoke, including a tennis player, were equally supportive, including a Professional Women of Flagler County past president, who said Redefined was awarded Best Business of the Year in 2023.
Jodee Soltes, the Palm Coast resident who co-owns Redefined with her son, also addressed the council. The company launched in 2019, surviving Covid, but that’s been a theme for Soltes: “We moved here in 1998, built our house during the wildfires,” she said. Her three children went to school in Flagler back when the old Community Center and Holland Park were much smaller versions. “We opened the business because my son has Crohn’s disease and we know food is medicine. So we’re looking forward to working with the city,” she said.