BRANDON — The sign has hung outside Castle Creole on State Road 60 for three years, but owner Esther JeanBart wasn't able to turn it on until this month.
That's how long it took her to realize her dream of opening the French Caribbean cuisine restaurant that pays homage to her Haitian heritage.
She watched as Thorntons and Family Dollar constructed new buildings in a matter of months, bookending her and making her feel squeezed as an entrepreneur. Despite laboring on every detail between the floor tile and the ceiling crown molding to design a place that welcomes people with comfort food, and shedding a few tears along the way, JeanBart never wavered from her vision.
"I want to be the next Olive Garden, Caribbean-wise," said JeanBart, 35, who already has expansion visions for New York, Orlando and Atlanta among other places. "That's what the goal is. That's what I'm going to do."
Castle Creole had planned to open its doors at 435 E Brandon Blvd. but has now postponed those plans because of a family emergency.
JeanBart gave birth to three of her four children (Milano, 5, Bijou, 4 and Rome, 2) since moving to Brandon five years ago with her oldest child, Gianni 16. She grew up in Brooklyn where her parents, Alphonse and Marie raised nine children. Her mom and dad have been married 53 years and Alphonse continues to serve as a Baptist deacon.
She is the youngest of seven female siblings, most of whom attended her VIP tasting March 1 when she turned the restaurant sign on for the first time, along with her parents and colleagues she met since relocating to the area.
Photos of strong women hang in the dining room, including a prominent 16- by 20-inch depiction of her oldest sister, Genevieve, whom she also calls her mentor. JeanBart has hired a chef and kitchen staff that understands the word Creole doesn't mean crawfish etouffee and Louisiana bayou to her, but rather black rice and mushrooms with steamed conch — a popular dish in Haiti.
She sought calmness in Florida, but missed home cooking so she wanted to create an atmosphere where people in suits and ties or even flip-flops can stop in after work. Once they arrive, they can enjoy beer and wine while listening to Sade or Bob Marley in the dining room or live music on the 1,400-square-foot back patio that includes a fire pit.
"This is my home, my castle," said JeanBart, "and I have to treat it as my house or my castle. I am different."
Castle Creole initially plans to be open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week. Check facebook.com/welcomehome castlecreole for hours, menus, live entertainment and catering.
Centra Care opens for patients in Riverview
Florida Hospital's newest addition to the Riverview community opened last month after construction of its new Centra Care facility was completed.
An emergency room alternative for urgent, nonlife-threatening medical care, the facility offers $25 flu shots, treats broken bones, infections, allergies and pediatric concerns as well as orthopedic conditions and stomach problems.
It is at 10222 Bloomingdale Ave. in front of Target and is open daily beginning at 8 a.m. You can make a no-wait reservation online at centracare.org or call (813) 515-5814.
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This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Castle Creole has postponed its grand opening until later this spring.