Dana and James Winfrey of New Tampa looked high and low for just the right franchise opportunity.
Finally, they chose a company based about as far away as you can get without leaving the country: Hawaii.
The Winfreys opened Papalani Gelato in Temple Terrace's Telecom Park. The cafe serves Italian-style gelato as well as sorbetto (a dairy-, gluten- and fat-free frozen dessert), frozen yogurt and coffee drinks.
The cafe at 13312 Telecom Drive is the first in the contiguous United States and just third overall. The others are on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, arguably a more inviting place to enjoy a cone than a Temple Terrace office park. But, hey, at least we've got palm trees.
Dana, a former contractor with the space shuttle program, liked the idea of gelato because it makes people happy. Being able to work alongside her two teenage children — the head gelatomakers — was a bonus.
"Whenever someone is coming here, it's to get a treat,'' she said. "Everybody is in a good mood.''
The Winfreys hope to differentiate Papalani from the area's many ice cream shops by playing up the fact that gelato has less fat and is more dense and creamy than most ice creams because it doesn't have as much air. The couple plans to open a satellite location at the Westfield Brandon mall in time for the busy holiday shopping season.
The store sells two dozen flavors at any given time, many of them inspired by Hawaiian fruits like mango, passion fruit and papaya. Couches and bench seating create a coffee shop feel, but the theme is clearly tropical. The name Papalani means heaven in Hawaiian, hence the store's motto: Heaven in a cone.
The store had a soft opening Aug. 27 but celebrates its grand opening this weekend with free samples, a gelato-eating contest, face painting, live music and Hula Hoops from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday. Suggest a new flavor on the store's Facebook page, and you could win a gift card.
Here's more evidence that ice cream is hot. Baskin-Robbins plans to add 20 Florida locations over the next several years and is looking for franchisees in Tampa, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Panama City, Miami and West Palm Beach.
The ice cream chain is hosting a webinar from 9 to 10 p.m. Wednesday to talk about franchising opportunities and development incentives. Candidates must have $125,000 in liquid assets and a net worth of at least $250,000, not to mention a passion for Jacoma Almond Fudge.
Baskin-Robbins is part of Dunkin' Brands Group and has 138 locations in Florida. To register for the webinar, go to franchisingevents.dunkinbrands.com.
You know a place is special when you take pictures of the bathroom.
That's how it is with Tampa's Oxford Exchange, a combination restaurant, bookstore, coffee shop, tea house, home decor store and private business club on Kennedy Boulevard.
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If you haven't been there since it opened a year ago, find an excuse and go. There's really no place like it in the area.
To celebrate its anniversary, the Exchange is giving away a $5,000 home makeover. The winner will get to choose decor inspired by his or her favorite room at the Oxford Exchange. (My vote would be the mirrors, fixtures and vanities in the women's restroom.)
Entry forms are available to anyone who buys a retail or food item. The winner will be announced at 5 p.m. today and posted on the Exchange's Facebook and Twitter sites.
Susan Thurston can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 225-3110 or @susan_thurston on Twitter.