Diego Ibanez, owner of Emiliano’s, Carries on the Legacy

Quite a number of businesses have come and gone in downtown Gainesville, but a small restaurant started by a Puerto Rican family has long endured. Last November, Emiliano’s Cafe celebrated 30 years since its opening! Owner Diego Ibanez has experienced downtown’s transformation over the years. 

Diego Ibanez, owner of Emiliano’s, Carries on the Legacy.jpg

What began as a bakery in 1982 in the location now occupied by the Reggae Shack Cafe grew into the restaurant you see now at Southeast First Avenue. Not only are there more restaurants in downtown since Ibanez’s parents, Jorge and Wanda, founded Emiliano’s, but the area also has become a place for entertainment and culture, he said.

Ibanez co-owns the restaurant with his mother, Wanda, who still handles the accounting and bookkeeping. The business continued to grow throughout the recession because it countered it by offering live music and pushing catering and takeout services. Ibanez said he feels proud to carry on the legacy of the restaurant. “We’ve seen so many restaurants come and go,” he said. “What’s kept us going is that we care.” 

And, what’s Ibanez’s ultimate goal? “The west side of Gainesville is due for an Emiliano’s.”

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Virginia MacKoul

Virginia is a graduate from the University of Florida's College of Design Construction and Planning with a degree in Sustainability and the Built Environment, and a minor in Urban Regional Planning. Virginia joined the Front Street team in 2011, as an intern. Upon graduation, Virginia joined the Front Street team full-time as the Director of Client Services. Ms. MacKoul’s addition furthers Front Street’s continued growth and expansion within Gainesville and other North Central Florida markets. She was promoted to Director of Marketing in 2014 and now manages the firm’s team of interns and oversees all marketing and branding activity. Virginia was born in Boston and moved to Lee County, Florida in 1997. Virginia graduated her high school's International Baccalaureate program and started at the University of Florida with a focus on Architecture. Virginia shares Front Street's passion of giving back to the community and those in need. Virginia's hobbies include photography, cooking, football, movies, music, and spending time with her dog, Brinkley.

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