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Couple sees dreams submerged

The dream was supposed to be their future.

Frank and Denise Miranda shared a dream, and they worked hard to make it a reality. Together, they opened Knock On Wood, a gift shop on Clark Street in Hudson Beach. Frank used his woodcarving skills to craft custom-made items that Denise would sell to an active tourist trade.

Business was good. Frank even thought that one day their daughters might join them in the shop. Their family would become even closer, working toward the dream together.

Then came the morning of March 13, 1993.

The so-called no-name storm disrupted many lives in west Pasco County, but the Mirandas were devastated. The shop was closed for months at the height of the tourist season because of heavy damage. More than half of Frank's tools and equipment were ruined, forcing him to move his workshop to Largo.

Their family was the biggest casualty, however. In the year since the storm, Frank and Denise have separated, their younger daughter has had trouble in school, and their older daughter has left home, trying to escape the pressures of supporting her family.

"I'm afraid the storm damaged more than just the walls," Denise Miranda said.

Dealing with the financial and psychological fallout proved to be too much for the couple. "Financially, we were devastated," Denise Miranda said Wednesday from Knock On Wood. "I'm just barely hanging in here."

"Basically, after the storm, there was a lot of disruption," Frank Miranda said from his new workshop in Largo. "I had just started my (first) workshop. We didn't have any insurance. . . . It put us in a financial bind.

"From there, our marriage started to go down the drain," he said. "The bills started to get harder to pay. Life changed totally."

"We had a lot of problems," Denise Miranda said. "All of us had trouble sleeping for a long time. We were having nightmares and trouble like that. It was very frightening."

Frank Miranda said his not being able to work made it even harder for him to recover. After 15 years in his trade, "I wasn't able to make my sculptures," he said. "I just wasn't able to adapt."

He began to notice changes in their children, too. "We could tell by the 11-year-old," he said. "Her grades have dropped since the storm. She doesn't like to stay alone by herself anymore."

Their 18-year-old daughter had to take a part-time job to help support the family while the shop was closed, he said. "She ended up moving out. The pressure just seemed to be too much for her."

She is still on speaking terms with the family and lives in Hudson, Frank Miranda said.

The shop is still open every day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., although business has not been as good. Frank Miranda continues to provide items to be sold in the shop.

"Between Denise and me, and our separate jobs, we try to keep the shop open as much as we can," he said. Denise Miranda also works part time at a hotel in Bayonet Point.

He said he thinks news about the storm has spread and people simply assume that area businesses are closed permanently. "People coming down on vacation probably think everything has been destroyed," he said. "We are very much open."

He said he is optimistic about the shop's future but can't help remembering the dreams.

"What we were going to turn into our future is now turned into . . ." He pauses, then quietly continues. "You know, our family is pretty much broken up now. . . . Our dreams of the kids going to school and working part time in the gift shop, a tight-knit family growing up together, has turned into the opposite."

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