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Sips Specialty Coffee serves it cozy in Citrus Park

CITRUS PARK — If you need a latte fix in the Citrus Park area, the newly opened Sips Specialty Coffee has you covered.

Caryn and Ken Reed opened the coffee shop in July as a way to escape corporate America.

"We decided we were sick and tired of corporations ruling our lives," said Caryn.

The couple moved from Bay City, Mich., to Tarpon Springs three years ago after Ken was laid off from a sales job where he had spent more than 20 years.

A former client owned his own coffee shop, and the couple thought it sounded like just the change of pace they needed.

"My youngest son used to play his guitar in coffeehouses in Michigan, and we'd go and listen," said Caryn, who also worked in sales and had struggled her last few years.

That cozy feeling was what they wanted in their own place.

"We wanted a place where people could come, regroup, maybe network. Recharge their batteries and get back out there," she said.

After searching for the right location and almost scrapping the idea, they finally found the place at Citrus Court at 6118 Gunn Highway, which was ideal because they could put in a drive-through window.

Sips Specialty Coffee offers espresso, lattes and cappuccinos, along with smoothies, organic green tea and flavored iced teas. Limited menu items include bagels and pastries. Inside seating is available.

The couple in their mid 50s has gambled their retirement fund on the ideal of homespun customer service.

"I want this to be very personal," said Caryn. "It's about the people … and so far we've been overwhelmed by the kindness of the community."

Sips Specialty Coffee is open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call (813) 963-7477 or visit sipsspecialtycoffee.com.

Friends and Neighbors Thrift Store

Just 2 1/2 years after receiving a double lung transplant, 53-year old Scott Neighbors is realizing a longtime goal.

Neighbors opened his own consignment store in July along with Sandy Varner.

The Friends and Neighbors Thrift Store on Florida Avenue in Lutz was a "leap of the faith" for the couple," said Varner, who gave up her job as a pharmacy technician to open the store.

When Varner met Neighbors in Marion, Ill., a few years ago, she knew he suffered from pulmonary fibrosis, but didn't realize just how life-threatening it could be.

"He told me it was possible that he didn't have many years to live," said Varner. "He coughed some, but otherwise, he seemed in great physical condition."

Shortly after moving to Florida, Neighbors became deathly ill and ended up on life support. Fortunately, he was able to get the transplants and has made a full recovery.

In March, "she (Varner) asked me what I wanted for my birthday, and I said a store," said Neighbors.

Neighbors had always supplemented his income by selling secondhand merchandise. He'd buy from auctions and storage units and sell at flea markets, eBay and Craigslist.

"I've dealt in secondhand goods for years … but a lot of this stuff, you really need a store to sell," said Neighbors.

The 4,000-square-foot thrift store has three rooms full of consignment items, including furniture, clothing, home goods, toys and antiques and collectibles, such as an antique milk crate and a set of classical and opera records. A fourth room is still being renovated and should open soon.

More than the store itself, Neighbors is grateful for the time he has been given to make it happen.

"I was almost dead … You just appreciate stuff more. You don't take every day for granted, and don't assume you have more time," he said.

The thrift store is at 16510 N Florida Ave. in Lutz and is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For information on discounts for students, seniors and military personnel, call (813) 714-6666.

Sips Specialty Coffee serves it cozy in Citrus Park 08/23/12 [Last modified: Thursday, August 23, 2012 4:30am]
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