MY LATEST PROJECT: I’m really excited about Wrapsody, where we have gourmet wraps, lettuce wraps, spring rolls with peanut sauce, fresh smoothies, protein shakes, gourmet coffees, homemade soups, and so on. It’s a fun, upbeat place at 712 W. Main, Leesburg, in the Southern Gardens Galleria. We also have a wine store with gluten-free beer and organic sulfite-free wines.
A GOOD OPPORTUNITY: A little over two and a half years ago when we opened Frugals, we moved it from Mount Dora because of the great location near The Villages and U.S. Highway 27. Frugals did really well, and then I worked out a business deal with Anita Valdez, where we put eight new tenants in The Shoppes on Main. Next, we opened Sip Restaurant and Jazz, which expanded next door with the opening of the Lounge at Sip. We hope to put full liquor in here by the end of summer.
WHAT I LOVE MOST ABOUT MY WORK: I love seeing Downtown Leesburg grow. There is nothing greater than having an idea, seeing if it works, and when it does, it’s a great pleasure. The Southern Gardens Galleria was the old JC Penney’s that had been empty six or seven years. We gutted, renovated the building and turned it into a mall with boutiques, furniture stores, jewelry store, art galleries, photographers, and Wrapsody in the back.
THE APPEAL OF DOWNTOWN LEESBURG: We are getting business professionals opening a second location here, and five tenants chose to leave their stores in Mount Dora to come here because the business is better and the rent is better. Rent determines how much you sell your products for. If you cut your product prices down by 30 percent because of rent, and you have a better market like The Villages, you’re probably better off here than in Mount Dora. And we have better parking; Mount Dora wishes they had parking like us.
MY MOTTO: I believe instead of complaining about what is going on, just do what needs to be done. It’s worked for me.
GUILTY PLEASURE: A half-hour nap.
FAVORITE JUNK FOOD: Anything sweet. I love sweets.
BEST ADVICE EVER GIVEN: Arrive early, stay late.
FAVORITE POSSESSIONS: I love my three custom Harleys. I was involved in Bikefest, but I worked it. We served about 1,600 meals, and it wasn’t carnival foods—we were serving steaks.
IN FIVE YEARS: I hope in five years to be on a big boat in the islands.
PET PEEVE: I hate lazy people who complain.
ONE WORD THAT DESCRIBES ME: Optimist.
photo: fred lopez