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A holiday from the everyday

Published Dec. 9, 2006

Paintings and photos from local artists hang on the ivory walls of the friendly little Holiday Caf, along with a dated burgundy and cream border featuring the shop's logo.

That border has survived several owners at the cafe near State Road 54 and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

Tom Giambarberee, or Tom "Gia" as he's known, is the fourth owner in five years. The jovial 63-year-old bears an uncanny resemblance to actor Danny DeVito - although he wishes it was more like Sean Connery.

His goal is to turn the increasingly popular cafe into something different, with more than coffee.

"What we're really trying to work toward is salads and soups and stuff," Gia said. "We've got to have something unique."

Gia's commute from his home in Largo doesn't seem to faze him.

On weekends, he rushes around preparing breakfast sandwiches and lattes for the regulars and newcomers at the cafe in the Publix shopping center behind Sonny's BBQ and a Hess gas station.

During the week, Gia works for Paradise Development in Palm Harbor as a leasing agent. He bought the coffee shop for his son-in-law about a year ago, but he decided to move up North instead.

On a recent weekday, a mix of customers - some in suits, others jeans and baseball caps - sat in the cafe. They chatted on cell phones, checked their e-mail on laptops. They used the cafe's WiFi Internet access and glanced at the daytime television talk show serving as background noise along with the hum of a coffeemaker.

Others preferred to use the cafe's drive-through service, ordering gourmet coffees without ever stepping inside.

Holiday Caf has become a meeting place for several area groups, as well as a quiet spot for small business meetings.

Sue Davis, 60, moved with her husband to Wesley Chapel from Dallas last year. An accountant, Davis sometimes meets clients at the cafe. She also comes Friday mornings to attend Women of Wesley Chapel meetings, a networking and education group sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.

"It's really a great place to meet. It's not too noisy. It's close by," Davis said.