He helped nur­ture a town’s char­ac­ter

The ren­o­va­tor saw the po­ten­tial of Pas­saGrille’s build­ings.

Tampa Bay Times - - Local - BY KRIS­TEN HARE Times Staff Writer

For most of his life, Jake Hole­house fol­lowed his dad into crum­bling build­ings and sag­ging houses and thought: “My God. Why aren’t we knock­ing this down?”

At 709 Gulf Way, the roof fell off the build­ing and crushed two cars. In a house on 12th Av­enue, bats came fly­ing out from be­neath the home.

But look around Pass-a-Grille now, and it’s easy to see the im­pact of his dad’s be­lief in res­cue and re­vival.

Ron Hole­house, an in­sur­ance agency owner and de­vel­oper, died on Dec. 20 from mul­ti­ple myeloma. He was 68.

In his life­time, Mr. Hole­house worked on 280 properties in St. Peters­burg and Way­nesville, N.C.

“Out of those 280, he never built any­thing from the ground up,” his son said.

Ron Hole­house moved with his par­ents and nine brothers and sis­ters to St. Peters­burg from Buf­falo, N.Y., a year af­ter he’d grad­u­ated high school in 1969. While putting him­self through St. Peters­burg Col­lege, he worked as a bar­tender at Shadracks on Pass-a-Grille’s tiny Eighth Av­enue.

He soon be­came a part­ner in the fledg­ling bar but spent evenings and week­ends ren­o­vat­ing homes in St. Pete’s Old North­east.

It wasn’t un­til vis­it­ing one of his sis­ters in Naples in the late 1980s and see­ing the value of beach properties there that Hole­house started to imag­ine pos­si­bil­ity and profit in Pass-a-Grille.

Man, he said in his dis­tinctly deep voice, there’s a gold mine here that no­body’s look­ing at or think­ing about.

Pass-a-Grille back then was dumpy, Jake Hole­house re­mem­bers, the beach bun­ga­lows de­crepit. His dad loved them.

In 1990, Ron Hole­house bought 1401 Gulf Way through a fore­clo­sure. He worked with Barry Fla­herty, a gen­eral con­trac­tor, to re­hab the apart­ment com­plex one unit at a time. They tore out lay­ers of ma­te­rial that had built up like bar­na­cles.

Mr. Hole­house knew where to spend money, Fla­herty said — new plumb­ing, new elec­tric, high-qual­ity ma­te­ri­als. He didn’t do any­thing half­way.

He turned that apart­ment com­plex into the Inn on the Beach, a post­card-per­fect be­dand-break­fast that he ran for 25 years. He jok­ingly called it “the Ron just down from the Don.”

In 1996, he bought a con­demned house at Gulf Way and 12th Av­enue.

“It was an ab­so­lute dump,” Jake said.

His dad gut­ted the 1915 home, re­stored the orig­i­nal pine floors and plas­ter walls and lived in it for 20 years.

In 2000, Mr. Hole­house bought the build­ing at 709 Gulf Way that had been va­cant and owned by the state for 10 years. It’s now home to the Brass Monkey up­stairs and both Grace Restau­rant and Par­adise Sweets down­stairs.

He worked with the city of St. Pete Beach to en­sure spe­cial zon­ing stan­dards pre­served Pass-a-Grille’s his­tor­i­cal foot­print. Al­ways up­beat and armed with analo­gies, he sat on the zon­ing board, the his­tor­i­cal board, the board of ad­just­ments and men­tored young lead­ers with a fa­therly push.

“It al­ways takes one per­son to have con­fi­dence in a com­mu­nity,” said Melinda Pletcher, a com­mis­sioner for St. Pete Beach and a long­time neigh­bor.

Pass-a-Grille was — and still is — a quirky, di­verse place, she said. But it needed rein­vest­ment and re­spect.

“Ron didn’t just do that with one prop­erty,” Pletcher said. “He did that with sev­eral properties.”

He saw po­ten­tial where few oth­ers did.

Ex­cept now, you can see it, too. Se­nior news re­searcher Caryn Baird con­trib­uted to this re­port. Want to know more about Ron? Head over to In­sta­gram and @were­mem­berthem and see one way his son will re­mem­ber him. Know some­one who has re­cently died whom we should write about? Send sug­ges­tions to Kris­ten Hare at epi­[email protected] tam­pabay.com.

Fam­ily photo

Ron Hole­house loved Pass-aGrille’s beach bun­ga­lows.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

When Ron Hole­house bought the build­ing at 709 Gulf Way in 2000, it had been va­cant. It’s now home to busi­nesses.

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