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SH Business Beat Update: Harbor Food Tours

Harbor Food Tours held a trail run in downtown Safety Harbor on Saturday, Dec. 12. 2015.
Harbor Food Tours, a walking food tour of downtown Safety Harbor, held a trial run on Saturday, Dec. 12. 2015 in advance of the company’s launch in January.

Last month, we told you about Harbor Food Tours, a new business that allows patrons to walk around and explore the many restaurants in downtown Safety Harbor while also learning about the city’s history.

Last weekend, company founders Pete Tanner and his sister-in-law, Lanie van der Horst, guided a group of friends and family members through a trial run of what the actual tour will consist of when they start taking bookings from the public in January.

And although they recognized a few snags in the process, overall Tanner they said they were pleased with the outcome.

“It was definitely a successful afternoon from our standpoint,” Tanner told Safety Harbor Connect. “All the restaurants were very enthusiastic and inviting to our tour guests, and the tour group really enjoyed the time they spent.”

“We talked about a lot of local history, and visited and spoke about all the different public art pieces around downtown,” he added, noting that other than the tour running a little longer than the planned 3 hours, they “didn’t experience any major hiccups.”

Pete Tanner and Lanie van der Horst discuss Harbor food Tours during its trial run on Saturday.
Pete Tanner and Lanie van der Horst discuss Harbor Food Tours on Saturday.

Van der Horst, who recently moved to Florida from Brooklyn, came up with the idea for a food tour in Safety Harbor after witnessing the success of similar companies in New York City.

“Whenever my parents would come to visit, we would take them on one of the many food tours in Brooklyn,” she explained prior to the trial run. “And when my husband moved to New York from Australia, we used to do food tours in different areas, because it was a great way to see and experience the city.”

Shortly after moving here, van der Horst and her husband went on a food tour with Tanner and his wife, Kara, in Ybor City, and soon the idea was hatched to offer a similar service in Safety Harbor.

“We live here, we’re downtown every weekend, and we know all the restaurants really well,” Tanner said. “So we figured this would be a perfect place to start something like this.”

As of now, Harbor Food Tours currently includes nine downtown eateries: Green Springs; Southern Fresh; Pick Your Poison Cupcake Café; Sandwich on Main; Brady’s BBQ; Sno Beach; Whistle Stop Grill; Joey Biscotti; and 8th Avenue Pub.

Pete Tanner guided Harbor Food Tours to Southern Fresh in downtown Safety Harbor on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015.
Co-founder Pete Tanner guided the Harbor Food Tours group to the Southern Fresh restaurant in downtown Safety Harbor on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015.

The groups, which will consist of 2-12 people and cost $50.00 per person, will meet at the John Wilson Park Gazebo, and then travel approximately a mile and half around town, stopping for roughly 15 minutes at each establishment to sample small portions of signature items, while also getting a little history lesson along the way.

In fact, Tanner did so much brushing up on the City’s history, he recited facts about Safety Harbor this reporter wasn’t even aware of, including who John Wilson Park was named after (Hint: NOT the local news anchor), and who painted the mural on the side of the post office (Answer: The same guy who designed the iconic bags for Bloomingdales department store).

“We wanted to incorporate art and history in the tours, because they are such important parts of Safety Harbor,” Tanner said, noting the tour included stops at Syd Entel Galleries and saw five murals, artwork at the library, the city’s 9/11 memorial, and the SHAMc building as well as a bead making demonstration at Francie Rogal’s studio. Future tours will visit Harborside Studios, as well, according to Tanner.

Tanner said if things go well with the business, they could incorporate new stops into the tour, although he admitted it’s difficult to coordinate with some restaurants due to size, hours and other factors.

Green Springs Bistro owner Paul Kapsalis speaks to Harbor Four Tours on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015.
Green Springs Bistro owner Paul Kapsalis speaks to the Harbor Food Tours group at his restaurant on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015.

“Every restaurant is different, and a lot of restaurants we can’t go to because they’re closed or they don’t have enough room,” he said. “But if this works out, we will definitely consider adding different locations to the tour.”

According to van der Horst, the reaction they’ve received from the restaurants so far has been all positive.

“Everyone has been great so far,” she said. “I think once the restaurants get comfortable working with us, it’s only going to grow from there.”

Based on the reaction of one restaurateur, Harbor Food Tours could provide a valuable service in the downtown Safety Harbor area.

“I think it’s cool,” Green Springs chef/owner Paul Kapsalis said. “My friends used to do the same thing on their own, and you can do it here now because there’s so much diversity.”

“I think it’s going to be a good addition to the area.”

For more information about Harbor Food Tours, including reservations and other frequently asked questions, visit the company’s website at Harbor Food Tours.com.

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