WESLEY CHAPEL — Dawn Novitsky was a newcomer to the Tampa Bay area with a new business.
She set up shop selling sweet Italian ice in a Land O'Lakes plaza.
And after three years of hawking cones, Novitsky had survived several burglaries and a slowing economy.
Three times, crooks took a sledgehammer and smashed the windows and the glass door at the Land O'Lakes business and tried to make off with cash, the owner says. But, Novitsky, a smart ex-New Yorker, says she knows better than to leave the cash box lying around overnight. And with each burglary, the bad guys left nearly empty-handed.
Then, Novitsky watched as some nearby small businesses such as a florist, carpet store and a deli fell victim to the sluggish economy and closed their doors for good.
"We (watched) businesses open and close while we hung on by our fingernails. We needed a new location, that would be our saving grace," said Novitsky, 42, who lives in Wesley Chapel.
Weeks ago, Novitsky moved the Land O'Lakes-based Kups N Kones to a new spot and borrowed a new name: Cafe Cones.
Cafe Cones was an existing ice cream shop until Novitsky bought the place in Wesley Chapel and kept the name.
It just seemed like a smart move. With ongoing construction on parts of State Road 54 in Land O'Lakes, business there had dropped a bit, Novitsky said.
"Instead of folding in the towel, we thought … (we'll) give it another try," she said. "It just felt right to move."
And so far, Wesley Chapel is perfect, Novitsky says. Cafe Cones is not far from Interstate 75 and tucked into a plaza with a big-name office supplier and a grocer.
The new owners had planned the move for the last weekend in May and the opening for June 2. But, Novitsky's daughter was turning 6 and she wanted to host a party at the new place. So, the family gathered there May 31 for the party.
While the private event was going on, people were knocking on the door wanting cones. So, Novitsky just started serving treats right then and there. And folks have been coming into Cafe Cones ever since.
Of course, the variety of Italian ices, gelatos, smoothies and ice cream are still offered.
But, Novitsky, an avid cook, has decided to kick things up a notch by adding gourmet wraps and sandwiches to the menu board.
Signature sandwiches named after famous Hollywood Italians — the Balboa, Sinatra and Soprano — are already big hits. And customers say the Cuban sandwich, called the Tony Montana, is authentic.
The business is a family affair; Novitsky's Italian mother helps out in the kitchen.
Novitsky's husband, George, and three kids pitch in too.
Even little Sara, the one who just turned 6, wanders around the place making folks laugh and playing with other kids.
"We want to have (customers) come in as guests and leave as friends," Novitsky said.