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Dunedin boy with lemonade stand reaps windfall; neighbor under city review

T.J. Guerrero pours a cup of lemonade for a customer at his small stand in his Dunedin neighborhood. [JIM DAMASKE | Times]
Published Aug. 29, 2014

DUNEDIN — T.J. Guerrero has gained international attention this week because of his lemonade stand. • Since a story about a neighbor's efforts to shut down the 12-year-old boy's venture ran in Sunday's Tampa Bay Times, T.J. has been given donations, treated to a limo ride and featured in news reports from New York to Europe. He also has given back by donating some of the money to a local animal shelter.

The neighbor, Doug Wilkey, hasn't fared as well. He is now under investigation by the city for — of all things — potentially running a business out of his home without a license.

A tipster contacted the city and pointed officials toward records that show Wilkey, as recently as March, listed his Patricia Avenue home as the principal business address for Bayport Financial Services.

Planning director Greg Rice said officials were drafting a letter notifying Wilkey, 61, that all companies operating in the city require a business tax license, which costs about $45 a year, and that home-based-business owners must sign an affidavit agreeing to follow special rules.

The Times reported Sunday that Wilkey had spent the last two summers urging City Hall and police to end the "illegal business" T.J. was running in a residential area. He ordered two reporters to leave his property Thursday.

"The irony is (Wilkey's) not following the rules either, or doesn't seem to be," Rice said.

He could face daily fines of $250 if he does not comply with the ordinance.

Meanwhile, T.J. was across town presenting $200 to the Humane Society of Pinellas, where his family years ago adopted a pit bull mix, Jazzmyn, 4.

The money was just a small portion of donations and other goodwill that have poured in since the story went viral.

Most people sided with T.J., who pairs his lemonade earnings with lawn-mowing cash to pay for things like his cellphone bill and dinners with his mother.

T.J. was interviewed by several local television news stations, and the nationally aired Fox & Friends sent a limo at 5:20 one morning to drive T.J. to Tampa, where the Palm Harbor Middle Schooler taped a segment with the show's New York anchors before class.

The Mike Calta Show on 102.5 the Bone set up a lemonade stand in T.J.'s usual spot Monday, inviting listeners from across Tampa Bay to surprise the boy when he came home from school. They raised nearly $1,100.

When the stand ran low on supplies, the family said, an anonymous donor drove from Tampa to drop off 10 bags of lemons, sugar and ice. They said other groups, including the American Legion and radio listeners in St. Petersburg, have hosted their own lemonade fundraisers for T.J.

As many as 10 people have rung the doorbell to express support, and admirers from as far away as Canada have phoned or emailed to offer donations ranging from $5 to $250 and even an iPad. Several readers said T.J.'s entrepreneurial spirit touched them.

His mother, Lori Guerrero, said the family was "overwhelmed" and "shocked" by the support.

T.J., who treated his mother this week to dinner at Juan's Mexican Grill in Dunedin, said he plans to put most of the donations in savings. His parents are setting up a college fund, and the family is exploring other charitable options.

"This situation has taught me to not let one person knock me down," T.J. said, "and to just get right back up."

Business is booming.

Tuesday and Wednesday alone, T.J. said he went through 13 pitchers of lemonade, even though Wednesday's shift had to be cut short.

There was homework to be done, his mom said. "School always comes first."

Contact Keyonna Summers at ksummers@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4153. Follow @KeyonnaSummers.

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