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Cafe Con Trey will close Saturday

Special to the Times

Special to the Times

SOUTH TAMPA — In the end, the loyal customer base that kept Cafe Con Trey in business for 17 years was no match for the reality of today's economic climate.

The tiny coffee spot with a drive-through at 2702 W Kennedy Blvd., known for its cafe con leche, Cuban toast and friendly service, will shut its doors for good Saturday at noon.

Manager Carlos Nieves Sr. said the 2,349-square-foot building that housed Cafe Con Trey since 1991 — at favorable rental rates — has sold. The new rent would be double what the cafe had been paying. There are no plans to move to a new location, Nieves said, since rents all over the area appear to be unaffordable.

Things were tough already, Nieves said. Sales have been down since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and, in the past year, business has dropped off even more.

"We have our fans," said Nieves, who has managed the restaurant for owner Angel Oliva III since Cafe Con Trey opened. "They were loyal, and they were great. I wish I could put a spot right around the corner. Because they did treat us right.

"We knew their orders, and we knew their names. It was like Cheers."

As word got out in recent weeks about the cafe closing, "we have been slammed," Nieves said. But there's still a bit of time, he said, to come in for "one last coffee, one last sandwich."

And one more hello.

Real dancing stars are opening new studio

What's notable about the new Arthur Murray Dance Studio franchise opening at 3217-B S MacDill Ave. is the foursome behind it.

The president of Arthur Murray asked internationally known dancers Luca and Lorraine Baricchi and Michelle and Scott Montague to open their own studio. The two married couples, who most recently lived in northern Italy but have traveled for much of the past two years while teaching for Arthur Murray, decided to open one in Tampa.

The relaxed atmosphere in the studios they visited was part of the appeal, said Michelle Montague. Also, Tampa is a place they all feel comfortable, she said. Michelle and Lorraine are sisters from Ireland. Baricchi is from Italy, and Scott Montague is from Britain.

"We've competed for such a long time," Michelle Montague said. "It's really been nice to see people enjoying (dancing) and not doing it as a job. … It's a very nice job, don't get me wrong, but you begin to treat it as a job."

All four are now in their 30s and have been dancing since the age of 4 or 5, Montague said. All have won international competitions. Numerous videos of the Baricchis — many of them with gushing commentary — are available on YouTube.

But Michelle Montague is quick to note the atmosphere at their spacious, remodeled studio will be fun, not intimidating. The studio will be about "socializing, meeting people, having a good time," she said.

Registration begins Monday; the first 25 get a free introductory lesson. Among the packages offered is eight sessions for $399. The studio will offer private and group lessons as well as workshops. Hours are 1 to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Call (813) 835-1111 for more information.

She credits prayer with ideas for cafe

For years, Darlene Yetta has seen small Christian book and gift shops across the country struggle to stay afloat as national and online retailers have begun selling similar products.

Yetta's shop, Just For Heaven's Sake, 4135 Henderson Blvd., was set to close a few years ago at the same time other Tampa area Christian stores were shutting down. But Yetta, who opened the store with her sister in 1996, managed to stay afloat with help from a staff of volunteers.

Yetta said she has prayed for ideas on how to keep the store open, and she said God recently led her to two: a name change and a coffee bar.

She reopened the restaurant this month as St. Thomas Cafe after expanding her space about 300 square feet to accommodate a full coffee service, a bar and a handful of tables. St. Thomas Cafe offers regular and flavored coffee, smoothies, lattes, cappuccinos, tea, pastries, muffins and cookies. The shop also is offering its own brand of coffee (roasted by a Sarasota company) for purchase.

As always, the shop sells books, gifts, cards and inspirational items. New hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Do you know something that should be everybody's business? Call 226-3394 or e-mail

>>The find

Celebrity collectibles

Hang out with your favorite celebrities when you hang up custom-framed collages of photographs and memorabilia from Hollywood, sports, music and more. Autographed items come with a registered and numbered "hologram of authenticity." This Rat Pack collectible of the famous foursome shooting pool is framed with cue stick, accessories and autographs and sells for $6,995 at Home Theater Gallery by Stram Electronics, 3300 S Dale Mabry Highway. Call 831-8551.

Amy Scherzer

Cafe Con Trey will close Saturday 05/29/08 [Last modified: Thursday, May 29, 2008 4:31am]
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