New York is hailed for its abundant and varied food scene. Trendy, organic, farm-to-table dining and grocery options abound. That’s where Indialantic resident and restauranteur Djon Pepaj began his food career before moving his family to the Space Coast in the 1980’s.
This year marks Djon’s thirty-second year in Brevard County and what better way to celebrate than with the opening of his sixth, and most ambitious, dining project yet: Djon’s Village Market, Central Florida’s first upscale grocery/dining/bar hybrid.
Located on Indialantic’s growing Fifth Avenue corridor, just blocks away from the sandy Atlantic shoreline, Djon’s $5 million project has residents, businesses, city officials, and realtors stirring with excitement.
Everything Foodie Under One Roof
The unique concept of combining a gourmet grocery store, restaurants, and specialty shops with a wine bar, martini bar, oyster bar, sushi and ramen bar, pizzeria, and more, under one roof, has never been done in Central Florida, and possibly statewide.
Space Coast Living Magazine toured the 18,000-square-foot space in early June as finishing touches were being completed and had the pleasure of talking with Djon about his passion project.
“Living here as long as I have, I’ve seen the changes and understand [our community’s] needs and desires. I raised my kids in this town. I feel very connected to the community and wanted to give residents a special way to enjoy this beachside lifestyle,” he said on the third floor of the rooftop bar, which overlooks the sprawling beachside community and Atlantic Ocean.
“Everything had to be perfect. I didn’t care how long it would take. It just had to be done right,” Djon explained, leaning against the bar he had made from reclaimed wood and pointing out other sustainable design elements, such as stained-glass window panels that came from his home and are backlit for night viewing. He also touted the unique rail netting material imported from Sweden, a design nod to the area’s local watermen.
Perfectionism Makes PERFECT
Djon is a perfectionist and oversaw every square inch of the building’s design. He said the Village Market took two years to complete: six months of planning and about 18 months of construction – following the closing of his trendy nightspot City Tropics Bistro in late 2016. He claims the project’s design was a “true collaboration” with local Interior Designer Adrienne Chandler of AC Design Concepts, LLC, and Architect Gregory K. Wall, AIA, LEED AP, based in Tampa and Sarasota. Djon’s three adult children Djon, Alexis, and Paige, had an influence on the design concept as well.
City officials and many local businesses along the Fifth Avenue corridor agree that Village Market will be a significant addition to the local economy.
“I’m so happy to see this project come together. Indialantic needs more community pillars and this will be one. It will help define us as a town and as an area worth visiting. It will help other businesses prosper and give this special little town more heart and soul,” said Lisa Guyer, Board Certified Health Coach and CEO of Live Longer Medical in Indialantic.
Fifth Avenue Bridal owner Julia Barney agreed, “Since opening in 2018, we have witnessed steady growth of Fifth Avenue small businesses catering to the high-end shopper. The area is now poised for exponential growth, thanks to the distinctive and welcoming experience Djon’s Village Market will provide.”
New Market, New Jobs
Not only will residents gain a new shopping and dining destination, but Village Market will stimulate the local economy with 80 new jobs. When Lucky’s Market in West Melbourne closed its doors earlier this year, Djon immediately pursued then general manager Mike Klenotich to fulfill the same role for Village Market. The two have worked tirelessly to recruit the right mix of full-time and part-time employees.
Indialantic councilmember and longtime resident Doug Wright agrees with business owners about Djon’s Village Market’s positive impact for local businesses.
“Residents and visitors alike will have more choices to dine and shop along Fifth Avenue. This project, along with other high-end residential developments in the works, will surely improve the look and feel of the Fifth Avenue corridor,” he said.
To truly understand the concept of this new eatery and grocery store, imagine a high-end bazaar with specialty foods, trendy restaurants, and a farmer’s market-like shopping experience all under one roof. A place where clients can enjoy oysters and wine tasting, do a little grocery shopping, and then carry out, for example, street tacos, poke bowls, wood-fired pizza, something sweet from the baker or convenient, pre-packaged meals for dinner. The closest concept Djon likens Village Market to is the international sensation Eataly, an Italian-themed bodega, found in big cities across the U.S. and worldwide.
Djon is sourcing herbs and vegetables from local Brevard County farmers to support his farm-to-table menus, which will be overseen and executed by Culinary Chef Carl Del Prete. Although there will not be white linens like those found at Djon’s Steak and Lobster House in Melbourne Beach, Village Market is full-service throughout; no pick-up counters and no bussing your own tables.