The Deuces,” named after 22nd Street’s double twos, once saw a decline in arts and culture, but in recent years, the community has started to reclaim the area that frames 22nd Street.
For years, the street sat empty of business and life. The crime rate soared, discouraging potential business owners from taking a risk on inexpensive real estate.
The Deuces Live, Inc. rose in 2011 as an effort to revive the neighborhood. The organization’s sole goal is reviving the Deuces, a certified Main Street Community. Deuces Lives works to keep its historic corners preserved.
It’s still a work in progress, but the once-empty streets now boast 37 businesses, 26 civic organizations, 15 restaurants, and five event spaces. The Deuces Live website has a live counter, serving as a reminder of just how far this South St. Pete neighborhood has come.
“Our mission is revitalizing the corridor while preserving its heritage,” wrote Veatrice Farrell, executive director of the The Deuces Live.
Another draw, the St. Petersburg Historic Manhattan Casino, now has 22 Food Hall South and is the future home of the expansion of the Dr. Carter J. Woodson African American Museum.
The current Woodson Museum and the Manhattan Casino sit adjacent from each other. The museum’s executive director Terri Lipsey Scott and her team raise funds. Once completed, the sprawling future museum could lock The Deuces in as a arts-centric piece of St. Petersburg.
One of the biggest devotees of the neighborhood, Elihu Brayboy, says despite the excitement, the area has a way to go.
“We want this area to be livable, walkable,” Brayboy told The Gabber. “We want the residential aspect of the neighborhood to be revived, but that is going to have to happen organically.”
In 2008, Brayboy and his wife, Carolyn, began buying land – a mix of commercial and vacant lots – in South St. Petersburg. The couple has lived most of their lives in the area, and Brayboy says it was a spiritual act, purchasing the abandoned and boarded-up properties.
More than 40 years ago, Brayboy recalls a neighborhood full of life and vitality.
“This is my village,” Brayboy says. “We accepted that our higher calling was to revive that neighborhood.”
In 2014 the Brayboys opened Chief’s Creole Cafe as a spot for Cajun food and homemade sweet tea. But also, they opened the restaurant to bring people into the community.
“No matter what people were saying to us, we decided to invest in this area,” Brayboy said. “The majority of customers at Chief’s Creole Cafe are white … years ago, everyone thought 22nd Street was a bad area, Black and white.”
Continuing the legacy of her parents, the Brayboy’s daughter, Ramona Brayboy, is the face behind the Deuces farmers market, Sunshine Fresh Market.
The market stands on 1335 22nd St. S. and hosts local vendors who sell fresh foods, homemade goods and often, local music by Black artists.
It’s another step toward making the area a destination spot, says Ramona.
Discover South St. Petersburg’s revitalization at deuceslive.org.