TAMPA, Fla. — Pandemic shutdowns really took a toll on Tampa Bay small business owners.
But for some, things are turning around this holiday season.
As first time business owners, the couple that owns Tapas Spanish Cafe on Tech Boulevard near Brandon had a lot to learn when the pandemic hit.
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But now as we approach the end of the year they say those lessons have certainly paid off.
“I do a little twist on other cuisines but always keeping that Hispanic flavor on the food,” said owner Antonio Santiago.
Ropa vieja, empanadas, Cuban sandwiches.
When Santiago and his wife took ownership of Tapas Spanish Cafe last October, it was a dream come true.
“it just runs in my blood,” he said. “I went to culinary school i started in Puerto Rico and finished here in Tampa.
“My father, my grandfather, my brother, i have cousins, that are also chefs, it’s always been a passion. When i was a little kid, seeing my grandfather cook.”
But after a few months of learning the ropes, the world shut down.
“Only one week, opened right back up after that week, just my wife and i, had to lay off my employees for a little bit cause we couldn’t afford it with the little business that we were having,” he said.
They got back on their feet with a PPP loan and a grant from the Tampa Hispanic chamber of commerce.
Now their staff is back and they’re busier than ever with Christmas orders.
“Between that and some corporate doing small luncheons and stuff like that around here,” he said. “That’s been helping us too. But holidays are definitely a big key to keeping us open and afloat.”
So as they work this holiday season, Santiago says he’s reflecting on the biggest takeaway this year:
“i think not taking anything for granted. You know like you never know what’s going to happen, “ Santiago said. “Especially outside of being real busy, trying to spend time with your friends and your loved ones and family because now with this you learn how fragile life can be.”