By Paula Detwiller Special to The Pineapple
When Spanish-American restauranteur Christobal Parra started having to turn away guests at his now-closed Papa’s Café, at the corner of North Congress Ave. and Lake Ida Rd. in Delray Beach, he knew he had a problem. It was a good problem, but a problem nonetheless. “We had completely outgrown our space,” explains Annie Kolensky, Parra’s daughter and operations manager of the family-run Spanish restaurant. “It was 800 square feet including the kitchen. During season, it was crazy! We were way overbooked on reservations and didn’t have enough seats to accommodate everybody.” That prompted Parra—the man affectionately known as “Papa”—to think bigger. He needed a larger restaurant space, and he wanted to expand his menu to offer more of the trendy small-plate Spanish dishes called “tapas.” He set his sights on downtown Delray Beach, where many of his loyal customers lived. The aptly named Papa’s Tapas became the first Spanish restaurant and tapas bar in the downtown area. The plan took shape when the family found a vacant commercial bay in the Pineapple Grove Arts District. The new space, at 259 NE Second Ave., would enable Papa to double his seating capacity, but it would require both interior and exterior upgrades to accommodate operations. Walling up an unneeded roll-up garage door, in the rear, could make room for a larger freezer, and replacing the two front doors with one centrally located door would create a more efficient floor plan.
“It’s always gratifying to help a family business” Elizabeth Burrows, CRA Marketing Manager
That’s when Kolensky approached the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) about getting a Site Development Assistance grant, which offers qualified businesses a partial reimbursement for eligible exterior improvements to commercial properties. It is one of the CRA’s many economic development incentives designed to encourage business expansion, foster job creation, and ultimately enhance the tax base within the CRA District. Papa’s family applied for the grant with the help of CRA Marketing and Grants Manager Elizabeth Burrows. They eventually received approval of a 25% reimbursement of their eligible costs, up to $6,800.
“It’s always gratifying to help a family business,” Burrows said. “We’re especially excited about helping Papa’s Tapas because they found a new home for their restaurant without having to leave Delray Beach.” “ [The CRA] made everything possible for us,” said Kolensky. “And to make our dream a reality is super exciting.” Papa’s Tapas opened in early September to rave reviews, and Papa is looking forward to introducing more diners to the tastes of his homeland, as more diners visit the restaurant. Born in Alicante, Spain, he relocated to New York City in 1969, where he worked in Spanish restaurants, before meeting his wife Susie. The couple moved to Rhode Island where they raised six children, many of whom are now working at Papa’s Tapas. The menu offers a variety of traditional Spanish dishes, but tapas (Spanish for “little portions”) take center stage. They are available as appetizers throughout the dinner hour, and from 9 to 11 p.m., the restaurant rolls out an expanded tapas selection, including empanadas, rosemary garlic wings, sautéed shrimp, and papas aioli (garlic potato salad).
“You’ll be able to order 15 or 20 different ones,” said Kolensky. For the restaurant’s grand opening in the fall, Papa is planning to serve a huge seafood paella, along with Kolensky’s homemade sangria—a favorite at the old Papa’s Café. “We are excited to open,” said Papa. “With the reputation we have now, we’re going to have big, big success.”