Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Sleepy Little Town' Doesn't Fit Any More Callahan: Boom Times for West Nassau Town

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Sleepy Little Town' Doesn't Fit Any More Callahan: Boom Times for West Nassau Town

Article excerpt

Byline: Susan P. Respess, Nassau Neighbors staff writer

The rumble of graders, paving machines and concrete mixers, and the sight of "Open" signs on new restaurants have Jack Sikes pleased with his "little town of Callahan."

Sikes, who is president of the Town Council, said the widening of Florida A1A, called First Avenue through town, and the addition of sidewalks, curbs and gutters along the avenue and on other streets in town have really "dressed up" Callahan. A bare strip between sidewalk and curb is planned for landscaping.

The Town Hall, a white, flat-roofed building on South Kings Road that Sikes said "sticks out like a sore thumb" beside the new red brick fire station, will get a facelift to blend the facade and the roof line with the fire station.

Across from the Town Hall, workers graded and packed fill dirt in the parking lot of a new Wendy's restaurant that's expected to open by fall.

Next door to Wendy's, the little white frame house transformed into the Alluring Designs tea room and gift shop in August has already been doubled in size and owner Bobbie Walker has added several new business lines -- including a showroom for wood flooring, carpet, tile and vinyl flooring.

"It's exciting," said Walker, who grew up in Callahan and sees more people moving into the area and major subdivisions being planned between Callahan and North Jacksonville. "We have floral design classes. I teach people cake decorating and faux finishing."

Walker added within the last month a bridal section. She rents wedding clothes and also caters receptions at the shop, using a new courtyard patio in the back.

She also created a book club, dues $15 a month, that meets at the shop for gourmet coffee and dessert at 7 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month.

A few blocks away on First Avenue, a shopping center anchored by a Winn-Dixie grocery store gained three new tenants.

Larry's Giant Subs and a Domino's Pizza delivery opened within the past two weeks, and a China Garden restaurant is expected to open by Aug. 1.

"It was like a blood transfusion for the shopping center," Sikes said. Within the past year, the town also has gotten Moody's Pizza on U.S. 1, a "super pizza," Sikes said.

A Step Saver convenience store also has opened. The town has a new post office. And a federal grant program to rehab houses of low- to moderate-income residents is under way. Sikes said the grant provides funds to bring houses up to present building standards, but also will pay to replace a house if rehabilitation would be more expensive than new construction.

"We will have four replacements and 18 rehabs; they're scattered around town," Sikes said.

He credits Bobbi Boone, the town's planning and zoning administrator and grants writer, for getting the funds that have prompted all of the improvements. …

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