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Island retailer Jay McLaughlin launching mainland pizza spot


Like their J. McLaughlin resort wear line that reinterpreted traditional clothing’s heraldic patches and school-tie nostalgia, husband and wife Joan and Jay McLaughlin are opening a restaurant that reinterprets humble food favorites with the aim of taking them to new culinary heights.

The restaurant, the couple’s third eatery and the second in this area, is called Station 49.

It slated to open this week in a neighborhood that also is reinterpreting itself.

Located in a remodeled gas station on Old Dixie Highway, it is near trendy antique and design stores and not far from the recently opened American Icon Brewery.

The abandoned gas station was originally leased and turned into a pizza place known as The Garage in 2014. Earlier this year, a real estate agent who knew the McLaughlins were looking for a spot tipped them that the restaurateur was interested in moving on. 

A year and a half ago, the McLaughlins had considered opening a pizza restaurant in The Village Shops, an upscale shopping complex on the island they purchased and reinvigorated with new retail boutiques and their popular restaurant, Citron Bistro.

Opening a pizza restaurant there “was a good idea that had to be shelved,” McLaughlin said, because the return on investment didn’t add up.

But gourmet pizza, as served in such places as Danny Meyer’s pizzerias in New York, “is a concept that has not been exploited here,” McLaughlin said.

“I passed this place when it opened [as The Garage],” McLaughlin said. “I thought the former-gas-station idea was fresh and there is a tremendous energy downtown. We liked the chemistry of the area too.”

Besides bringing the gourmet pizza wave to Vero, the McLaughlins also wanted to again utilize the talents of Dino Parton, their chef for many years at Island, a restaurant they opened on Manhattan’s Upper East Side more than 30 years ago.

Parton’s wife recently retired and the couple moved to Vero Beach for the good life, but at 53, Dino asked Jay McLaughlin, “What am I gonna do?”

McLaughlin’s suggestion: Bring all the experience and nuance of haute cuisine to pizza, burgers, salads and desserts, to be accompanied by select beer, wine and coffee.

The restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, McLaughlin said, opening a bit earlier for brunch on Sundays.