Business

Businesses bloom in what was 'Fort Vegas'

Luca and Jessica Annunziata are looking forward to opening Passion8 Bistro on S.C. 51 after spending several months renovating the building that formerly held A&K Diner, an illegal brothel and a video poker parlor.
Luca and Jessica Annunziata are looking forward to opening Passion8 Bistro on S.C. 51 after spending several months renovating the building that formerly held A&K Diner, an illegal brothel and a video poker parlor.

FORT MILL -- The video poker machines are gone, and new businesses are popping up around the area once called Fort Vegas.

"That's kind of the entrance to Fort Mill for people going home from Pineville (N.C.) or the exit for people going from home to Pineville," Zeke Samples said.

Samples opened SBS Surreal Body Solutions, a personal training gym, in one of the former video poker parlors on S.C. 51 in February. Before he opened SBS, an Internet gaming cafe operated out of the former video poker parlor.

"The general sense of the area is that it's all industrial businesses here on my street," Samples said. "But now we're starting to pull in a lot of nonindustrial businesses."

He points to Narroway Productions and Randy's Computers along nearby U.S. 21 and Passion8 Bistro opening across the street from SBS. Less than a mile down U.S. 21, Food Lion is about to open one of its Bloom grocery stores near Regent Park.

York County's help sought

Samples would like for York County to help change the look and feel of the area. The area needs more signs to direct people toward Regent Park and Fort Mill on S.C. 51, and road improvements such as a median, he said.

"Right now, people just drive by, and there's nothing to really attract their attention to the businesses here," he said.

Samples is planning to repaint his building and remove the striped fabric balloons still attached to the front corners. He also plans to install more plants around the exterior.

Across S.C. 51, Jessica and Luca Annunziata are preparing to open Passion8 Bistro next week in another former video poker parlor.

"We're excited because we spent a lot of time and effort making it into what it is now," Jessica Annunziata said.

The Annunziatas have lived on the North Carolina side of Carowinds Boulevard for two years and were happy to find the building available earlier this year. The couple tore everything out of the building and rebuilt the inside from the ground up.

Two hope number 8 is lucky

Before they moved in, the building housed the A&K Diner. Annunziata is looking forward to resurrecting the building as a first-class restaurant.

"We realized there weren't any nice places to eat that weren't chains," she said.

Passion8 Bistro will feature a full tapas menu, a bar and pasta dishes. Luca Annunziata, the chef, worked for Good Housekeeping magazine creating recipes. He has cooked all over the world on cruise ships and was the personal chef of Tim and Nina Zagat, founders of the Zagat Survey, a rating survey of restaurants, Jessica Annunziata said.

"We named it Passion8 because everyone Luca cooks for always says he's so passionate about it, and the number eight is also the symbol for infinity," Jessica Annunziata said. "If you're always passionate about what you do, that's the path to joy."

Back at the corner of U.S. 21 and S.C. 51, Rally's Biker Leathers and Accessories recently expanded and added more merchandise. The store originally opened in the Carousel Center in late 2006. In July, it moved into a larger space in the center.

Fratus and his four partners started Rally's as an alternative to higher-priced motorcycle dealer based distribution networks. The store carries everything from leather clothes and helmets to bike accessories and jewelry.

"We started really small and felt our way through the dealer networks and have been adding vendors constantly," co-owner Mike Fratus said. "The development of this area will help us in that more people will see where we are."

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