Sundial St. Pete takes another step forward and opens the door of one business

Diamonds Direct is first business to open

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - "This is a great day," said Gary Sanchez, owner of Diamonds Direct.

For Sanchez, being the first store to open in the new Sundial complex in downtown St. Petersburg is no small victory for his business of nearly 30 years.

"It's just an honor for us to be one of the chosen ones to be here," said Sanchez.  He's also designed a watch that incorporates the Sundial logo.

St. Pete businessman Bill Edwards hopes Diamonds Direct opens the door to a new era of shopping and entertainment at the former Baywalk site.  Edwards bought Baywalk in 2011 and completely changed the look and feel; starting with the signature Sundial in the front of the open courtyard.

"I've wanted to reincarnate this spot into a downtown shopping center for all the people that live here," Edwards said.  

The multi-million dollar makeover of what had become a white elephant for the city, is expected to be complete by the end of the summer.  Former Mayor Rick Baker, who now works for Edwards, says his boss is the perfect fit for revitalizing the complex and not just as a good business venture.

"He sees this more as a way of providing the city and the community with something very special.  He could have built a lot of things on this block.  But instead, he chose to create a gathering place for the community," Baker explained.

And those who live downtown are excited for it's arrival.

"As long as we can get the stores to be filled, it'll be a great success for downtown St. Pete," said Carol Hickson, who's lived in St. Pete since the the 1960's.

Edwards says the time is perfect for Sundial to flourish.

"We're on an amazing growth pattern right now in St. Petersburg and this just fits right into the growth," he said.

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