The first time Javier Hernandez saw the peculiar treat, he was an ocean away from Safety Harbor.
"I was in Sofia, Bulgaria, on business. People were carrying around these things that looked like ice cream, but the things were hot, not cold, and I knew it because I could see the steam rising up,'' he recalled. "I thought, what a good idea.''
It's been 13 years since that trip. Hernandez has gotten married. He and his wife, Soleia, now have two kids, (Laura, 18 months and Javier, 4). Last November, he quit his job with a German glass manufacturer to spend more time with his family. But he never forgot that pizza snack.
"I was thinking about what would be a good business for the family, and I talked to my nephew, Daniel, (the business's operations manager). He said, 'Hey, remember those pizza cones you told me about?' We opened Pizza Cones in May.''
Walk into the business, located at 500 Main St., for either lunch or dinner, and you'll be greeted by the two men, both natives of Venezuela. While Hernandez, who started the business with an investment of $100,000, most often works the front area and the cash register, Daniel's chief duty is as chef.
"We use all Daniel's recipes,'' Hernandez admitted.
At Pizza Cones, customers, who may have thought pizza couldn't get anymore convenient, are served a fresh cone with the steamy hot toppings of their choice. "We have pepperoni, cheese, meatball, tiny meatballs that we fry just a little, as well as one we call 'U da' boss,' " Hernandez said. "The recipes are all my nephew's. We have healthy salads too, because this city has healthy people.''
Daniel starts his day before the sun rises, laying out dozens of balls of pizza dough. He heats up the metal cone maker and begins dropping the dough into the cone shapes, par-cooking the creations about seven minutes.
"When the customer orders their food, we fill the cone and cook it about 10 minutes more, depending on how crunchy you want it,'' said Hernandez.
Frequent customers include city staffers from nearby City Hall as well as community members like Sofia Blanco. Blanco, 11, stopped by recently with family. The concept is "a great idea," she said. "If you like pizza and if you like ice cream, you want this.''
And an hour later, after she finished her pepperoni cone, she added, "This place is amazing.''
Although Hernandez believes his business is off to a good start, averaging about 100 cones a day, he says there are a few challenges. "We would like to get up to selling 400 a day,'' he said.
"I do think the biggest challenge for me is going to be the summer. This area depends on snowbirds, and if we make it through these slower months, we know we will be okay.''
Pizza Cones is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, the Hernandez family takes Pizza Cones to the nearby Market on Main, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Contact Piper Castillo at [email protected] Follow @Florida_PBJC.