TEMPLE TERRACE – The owners of a recently opened business in Telecom Park want customers to experience just what its name implies.
James and Dana Winfrey are the franchisees of Papalani Gelato, which in Hawaiian means “a little piece of heaven.”
The idea to purchase the franchise came about after Dana Winfrey, a former computer programmer for NASA, found herself laid off at the end of the space shuttle program.
She’d worked out of her home where she had little face-to-face contact with people. So when she began contemplating her future, she decided she wanted to immerse herself in something totally different and “fun.”
Her husband, James Winfrey, an IT executive at Citigroup, was all for the idea. Together, the New Tampa couple researched numerous franchise options.
“This one really popped out at us,” he said. “This franchise was more about the quality of the product.”
Years earlier they’d traveled to Italy and delighted in tasting gelato, a popular treat to natives and tourists alike.
But they believe this close-to-home opportunity offered an even better take on the product with its fresh and unique ingredients – including tropical fruits – plus its wide assortment of flavors.
Dana is convinced they made a wise decision.
“When someone comes in here they are here for a treat and they leave happy,” Dana Winfrey said. “That makes it fun.”
Franchisers Marck and Lauren Shipley – who previously owned a large gelato manufacturing company in western Canada – founded the business in 2008 on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. They’ve since expanded to two stores and their products are featured in about 15 other area restaurants and venues.
“We created the concept around Hawaiian flavors and products,” Marck Shipley said. “It’s been a big hit.”
The Temple Terrace store is the company’s first mainland franchise. Its business model is similar to that of the Hawaiian stores in that many of the shop’s more than 50 rotating gelato flavors are infused with fruits such as mango, coconut, papaya and lychee. Others contain macadamia nuts.
In addition, some of the offerings do not have gluten, sugar or nuts.
Also on the menu are sorbettos, commonly called sorbets, as well as a variety of coffee and espresso imported from the Hawaiian Islands.
“We’re also trying to promote our coffee business because the people who’ve come in are super complimentary about the coffee,” James Winfrey said.
Oldsmar resident Ray Potter has stopped in on several occasions since the store’s Aug. 27 opening. And while he’s sampled some other flavors, his favorite is the Tiger Butter gelato, a combination of peanut butter and white chocolate.
“I come all the way over here to get it,” said Potter, who also was quick to mention that the shop’s servers are willing to concoct gelato combinations to satisfy just about any customer’s request.
His buddy Gerald Walker, was happy to learn that some Papalani Gelato menu items are tagged for people like him with diabetes.
“I like their mango,” he said.
Gary Walker of New Tampa discovered the place one morning when he had breakfast a neighboring restaurant.
“It’s a nice product,” said Walker, who noted his palate is especially drawn to the mango and salt ponds gelato flavors, the latter of which is made with lightly salted butterscotch.
Papalani Gelato, 13312 Telecom Drive, is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., will celebrate its grand opening Friday, Sept. 27, and Saturday, Sept. 28, with free gelato and coffee.
“We hope to have fun stuff for kids, too, like a hula hoop contest and a guess-the-gelato-flavor contest,” Dana Winfrey said.
The Winfreys also have plans to open a Papalani Gelato kiosk in the Westfield Brandon Mall in December.
Visit www.papalanigelato.com or call (813) 975-0480 for more information.
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at [email protected]