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Just about everyone knows someone who has been bullied, in ways big and small. Understandably, though, many victims are reluctant to speak about their experiences. We found some who aren't.
BY KATE FUEYO, Tampa Preparatory
For several weeks after Kalupa’s Bakery and Deli shut down, the oval slide-letter sign that once boasted menu specials was blank. It proclaimed no black-and-white cookies, Gasparilla rum cake or custom birthday orders. Even whipping by in a car, you could tell the place was no longer in business.
South Tampa lost a treasure when Kalupa’s shut its doors in January after more than 34 years of business. Blame what you want, be it the economy, Fitness Network or competitor Datz setting up shop next door and purchasing the bakery owned by Mike and Susan Kalupa on South MacDill. For me, what’s to mourn are the sumptuous birthday cakes, along with Christmas sweets, Easter cupcakes, after-school cookies — and the making of more memories.
Kalupa’s was my childhood reward for an A on the spelling test, a Halloween treat frosted in orange icing and cold Cuban sandwiches with just the right ratio of mayo to mustard. As a Tampa native, I’ve been to many other places that sell Cubans, and none mastered the mayo/mustard ratio like Kalupa’s.
More than anything else, though, I miss the icing. Kalupa’s icing was homemade, a rich buttercream blend dense with powdered sugar. It was great at room temperature but even better frozen, when it would become a pudding-like consistency. Traces lingered on forks after you’d licked them clean, and when dyed bright colors it stained lips and tongues more potently than Gatorade. But a knifeful spread on Kalupa’s dense, moist cake could inspire you to jump-start world peace. (Or at least cheat a little on the diet.)
Black and white cookies were thick, dense without being overbearing or chewy, and the chocolate-vanilla flavor dichotomy danced perfectly on your tongue. Jumbo cupcakes had the perfect cupcake-to-frosting ratio, not top-heavy like competitor Gigi’s or underwhelming like the Cupcake Spot.
The Cuban bread smelled freshly baked, the cookies were large and still under a dollar a pop, and I’m not sure there are a lot of eggnog cheesecakes in the world, but Kalupa’s had to be the best.
Kalupa’s owner knew me and my family by name. She probably knew a fair bit about me, too, since she made 16 years’ worth of cakes that reflected my geeky obsessions. I’ve never met another bakery owner with such a passion for her confections, or such a friendly smile.
The Kalupas had a shop on Neptune Street for 25 years before moving to MacDill Avenue nine years ago.
Sometime in mid February, I looked out the window while driving past Kalupa’s old building. Next door, the parking lot for Datz was jam-packed, but the oval sign was no longer empty.
It read, “We don’t know what’s next. But we’ll be back.”
My heart (or was it my stomach?) filled with a little hope.