Eco Relics: Constructing Reality From an Old Family Recipe

Sara Frasca is making her grandmother proud. In 1974, Evey Frasca invented the panino in her Colorado Springs pizzeria, a unique combination of dough, sauce, and toppings that is rolled up into a sandwich and baked. Evey’s children carried on her culinary legacy and now Frasca, who literally grew up in the family restaurant, has brought the panino to the First Coast at her Trasca and Co Eatery in Ponte Vedre Beach. Secret family recipes are hard to beat. Although Frasca had to alter the dough recipe for altitude, the panino’s main ingredients are still faithful to the 1974 original.

The idea to open her own restaurant had been kicking around Frasca’s head for over a decade. After 13 years at General Mills, Frasca was ready to break out on her own but she knew she had to do it on a budget. She chose a location that had already been a restaurant to avoid costs associated with change-of-use. A meticulous planner, she had drawn out the entire floor plan before meeting with an architect. Teaming up with a contractor who understood her vision was crucial to realize the plan within the six weeks Frasca had allotted for build-out.

Donald Heminger, a master carpenter and superintendent at Urban Partners, was perfect for the job. Frasca wanted a rustic, handcrafted look for Trasca. “She has a good eye, she did everything,” Heminger says modestly. They decided to save some money by scoring building materials at Eco Relics, a local architectural salvage business in Jacksonville. Eco Relics rescues usable building materials, antiques, and other treasures that were on the way to the landfill, providing a perfect avenue for Trasca to achieve the rustic look in an authentic, affordable manner.

On their first trip to Eco Relics, Frasca locked the keys in the car. She redeemed herself on the return visit, expertly backing up the trailer to the loading dock on her first try. Frasca and Heminger loaded up the trailer with wood frame windows, vintage mirrors, and several heavy timbers that had once served as floor joists in the Dyal Upchurch building, the first tall building to rise from the ashes of Jacksonville’s Great Fire of 1901.

Heminger got good advice from Eco Relics manager Doug “the Termite” about working the old-growth heart pine beams that seem to grow harder with every passing year. The Dyal Upchurch timbers now serve as Trasca’s bar and coffee counter. The unique wood draws a lot of comments from admiring customers, so much that Frasca laminated an information sheet about the history of the building answering frequently asked questions.

Once acquired, the salvage mentality is tough to shake. Suddenly a new world opens and piles on the side of the road are carefully inspected. Timbers from a torn-down playground became arcadian TV wall mounts. A salvaged cedar fence provided Frasca and Heminger with material for a wood panel accent wall, a project Frasca took on with Heminger’s help. He used the same cedar to wrap several cabinets, including a soft drink station that also features a repurposed piece of stainless steel from the old range hood that is now serving as a counter top.

The materials with which to construct our reality are all around us. Working with salvage is a transformative experience that turns trash into treasure. At Eco Relics, Frasca and Heminger sourced unique building materials that make eating at Trasca a memorable experience for the eyes as well as the mouth. In the process, they kept usable supplies out of Florida’s ever-increasing landfills. Whatever the size and scope of your project, Eco Relics has the materials and expertise help you to push it forward.

Eco Relics is open 7 days a week at 106 Stockton Street, Jacksonville, FL, 32205.

Trasca and Co Eatery is open 7 days a week at the Sawgrass Village Shopping Center in Ponte Vedre Beach, FL, 32082. Donald Heminger can be contacted at  [email protected] or 904-545-2233.

About David Podris