By Hank Tester

SOUTH MIAMI (CBSMiami) – There’s a new tenant coming to the once iconic Allen’s Drugs building in South Florida.

The drug store and diner were a neighborhood meeting and eating spot with its pharmacy located at the corner of Red Road and Bird Road. Its iconic neon sign reigned over the highly traveled intersection for decades before being removed as the building was being replastered and painted.

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But then, in October 2018, a fire roared through Delicias de Espana, a highly popular Spanish food restaurant located in the building.

Building owner Jef Matthews told CBS4, “We would not have changed a thing but because of the fire, Allen’s ceased to be a tenant.”

Jef Matthew’s family has owned the building since 1948.

There had always been a drug store, but a CVS drug store was built nearby. Allen’s Drugs sold their prescription service to the big box drugstore and plans were afoot to have Delicias de Espana take over the drug store and S&S Diner space. 

The drugstore was an institution, a local meeting spot. Customers said the diner put out the best bean soup in town, calling the drugstore and diner “home,” and that went on for decades. The burgers, milkshakes, and soda fountain food. There was also a branch post office and a jewelry repair store. Generations enjoyed Allen’s Drugs, but the fire changed all of that.

The Allen’s Drugs sign that everyone seemed to love never went back up.

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“The sign company that was supposed to be taking care of them had them outside during a hurricane and the sign, historic signs, were destroyed by that hurricane. That shattered us,” said Matthews.

Not that the Allen’s Drug sign was ever going back up as a state law prohibits advertising drugs on a building if no pharmacy is operating on the premises deemed historic or not.

So, what’s next?  Coming to the corner of Red Road & Bird Road is a Madrid-based Spanish restaurant.

Madrid’s Cala-Millor is going to occupy 40% of the building, kind of what was going to happen before the fire, just a different Spanish restaurant.

“They have been in Madrid in business for 50 years, a family operation. It is a thrill to have the building coming back to life,” Matthews told CBS4 News.

It has long haul. The building was cleaned out after the fire in 2018 and has sat idle till recently. Permit and insurance hassles kept things at a standstill, but now work has begun.

It will not be returned to the days of yesteryear, but it will be a new day on the corner of the busy intersection, a historic Miami building not demolished, just repurposed, and updated.

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What else for the building? The dental office will return, and relators are talking about maybe a bike shop, a shoe store, or another restaurant.