Developer Joe Kokolakis and his wife, Anna, knew what they wanted on the northeast corner of Broadway and Main Street: a place where they could go after dinner, sip coffee and watch their three children play in a small park. The Dunedin residents bought property on the corner and donated it for the city's new Purple Heart Park. But a deal to open a Starbucks fell through. "They were very clear on what their vision was, the type of business that they wanted in that space," said Lynn Wargo, Dunedin Chamber of Commerce president. "They were looking for a family-oriented, warm, safe place."
Saturday, Strachan's Homemade Ice Cream and Desserts officially opened its doors on that corner. It sells homemade ice cream, award-winning carrot and coconut cake, fudge, as well as pastries and gourmet coffee. It has parking in the rear, an outdoor service window and tables next to the park.
"When Starbucks backed out on the deal, we approached Strachan's and frankly, they're a much better fit for downtown," said Joe Kokolakis, president of J. Kokolakis Contracting. "They are a much more family-oriented business than Starbucks.''
Three other businesses feature ice cream within a few blocks, but most are not too concerned about the competition. One expects to get more business.
"We hope that their success is going to mean more success for the businesses around them," Wargo said.
One thing does worry the chamber, from a personal willpower point of view: Strachan's is just across the street and Wargo has discovered they sell fantastic, flaky pastries.
"Their baking ability is …" she hesitated. "We're concerned."
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A confluence of events brought Strachan's to Dunedin. But if you ask Susan Strachan, it was more than that.
About nine months ago, the owners of Strachan's Homemade Ice Cream in Palm Harbor, Bill and Susan Strachan, got some bad news. After nearly 10 years in that location, it looked like the ice cream place along Alt. U.S. 19 was losing its lease.
The Strachans, in their 60s, had tried to buy the property earlier without success. Now the property owner said a Walgreens was interested and the company moves quickly.
The Strachans had trouble sleeping and she cried a lot.
"We thought we'd be there forever," Susan Strachan said. "We painted our grandchildren's pictures on the side of the building, riding cows."
She took stock.
"Finally, I just turned it over to the Lord," she said, "and a total peace came over me."
A nice man named Joe Kokolakis soon visited Strachan's, she said. He asked the couple to consider opening a new location.
"And I knew that God had answered my prayer," said Susan Strachan. "No one had ever done that in the 10 years we'd been there."
Though she declined to say how much the family spent on the new location, which employs 15 people, she said "it was twice as much as we thought it would be.''
Meanwhile, she said, the deal with Walgreens may have stalled, so they could end up with two locations.
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Good news for the Dunedin chamber: Strachan's has a flavor of soft serve called Only 8 frozen yogurt that's 32 calories per serving. The flavor changes every few days. On Monday, it was butter-pecan.
"It's very good," said retired police officer Mel Ladner of Staten Island as he ate some on the patio.
The afternoon was warm and breezy, with lengthening shadows flickering across the small park. Ladner said he and his wife have been wintering in Dunedin for six years.
"This is paradise," he said.
Theresa Blackwell can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4170.