SUN CITY CENTER
Long ago, we welcomed newcomers to the neighborhood by taking over a home-baked pie or cookies or maybe a six-pack.
Okay, I made up that part about the six-pack.
It appears, however, that with our increasingly busy lives, the customs of the old welcoming committee have fallen by the wayside. These days, a lot of folks offer just a friendly wave and hope that the new family isn't weird.
Dare I say, I had a guy move into my neighborhood over the summer, and I still haven't offered a welcome gift.
Sorry about that, Tim.
Robyn Payant, who has lived in Sun City Center for 30 years, noticed the fading trend, but still had new residents inquire about services.
"People would start asking me 'Where do you get your hair done. Where do you get your nails done. What doctor do you go to. What restaurants do you go to,' " said Payant, who runs a financial planning business with her husband, Tom. "I would tell them I get my nails done here and my hair done here and my doctor is Dr. Gonzaelz.
"I went to my doctor about a month or so ago and he said, 'Robyn, you have referred 10 people to me.' So I thought if there was a way to get all the businesses together, along with the Realtors and along with the new people that had just moved in, it would make a great recipe for people meeting people firsthand."
Enter Payant's brainchild: Royal Receptions.
She solicited businesses, doctors and restaurants to contribute gifts, gift cards and coupons for welcome baskets for new residents. She then worked with Realtors to create an invitation list for residents who moved into Sun City Center within the last 60 days.
Dressed in a sharp purple outfit and a matching fascinator that rivaled hats worn at the royal wedding, Payant held her first "royal reception" last week in the spacious conference room at her financial services office.
Nearly 20 newcomers came to the meet and greet, including a few who were still unpacking boxes.
They got a chance to connect with business owners, get reacquainted with their Realtors and sample food from local restaurants including East Coast Pizza, Sonny's Barbecue and Apollo's Bistro.
Edi and Fred Filmore conceded it was a far cry from when they moved into their old Palm Harbor neighborhood 13 years ago.
"I didn't know what to expect, but it's wonderful," Edi Filmore said. "I think it's lovely."
Each of the "newbies" received a colorful royal basket, replete with an arching noodle from Pinch-A-Penny.
Payant estimated that each basket contained more than $500 worth of gifts and offers. It ranged from rounds of golf to boxes of chocolate to Sun City Center T-shirts to Dr. Joseph Hirschfeld offering a $100 discount for Botox treatments.
Larry and Marie Mulcahy recalled a neighbor bringing over cookies when they moved into their Skaneateles, N.Y., home, but Marie said, "they didn't do anything like this."
Payant hopes to hold a reception every six weeks and is emphasizing reaching newcomers within days or weeks of their closing.
Make no mistake, it's a business venture for Payant — the companies pay her for inclusion — and a chance for others to establish brand recognition with residents who have no loyalties.
But it's also a warm welcome that can leave a lasting impression.
Heck, I still remember the free pizza coupon I received when I moved to Brandon in 1989.
That's all I'm saying.