Florida Keys Business
Sunday, January 12, 2014
Feeding the world
New owners inherit old traditions at Blossoms

Click.

You can't hear it; you just feel it.

It's the connection between person and place that snaps permanently into place when someone answers the unmistakable call of Key West.

It took Jose and Shannan DeLaRosa all of one afternoon.

Click.

Key West had caught two more characters who recognized "home" in a place they'd never been.

"We weren't even here overnight," Jose said from behind the deli counter at Blossom Cafe, 408 White St. "We'd taken our daughter to college in Miami and decided to drive down for the day to kind of see what all the fuss was about."

They got it. They clicked.

"We spent the whole afternoon at Salute restaurant, talking to locals and visitors, the wait staff, and then Richard [Hatch], the owner," the couple both said, the words tumbling from their smiles. "By the time we paid the bill, we knew we would move here and own our own business. Seven winters in the cold in upstate New York was enough."

That was August 2012. Thirteen months later, on Sept. 20, 2013, the DeLaRosas took ownership of Blossoms, a deli, grocery store and, of all things, feed store, at 408 White St.

Despite their near-decade in New York, the couple had called New Orleans home for most of their lives, working as advertising associates while Jose also painted professionally.

"We weren't born there, but were there a long, long time. Long enough to call it home," Shannan said.

Then the levees broke.

Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the company they worked for transferred the DeLaRosas to New York, where Jose also opened his own art gallery.

Their daughter's college decision changed all of their lives and brought them back to the bottom of the nation.

Jose and Shannan had always cooked, both had worked in restaurants and Shannan has a degree in hospitality management, so Blossoms was the perfect fit: It's a deli, an Internet cafe -- and a feed store, of course. And it's now called Blossom Cafe.

"We're the only feed store between here and Miami," Jose said. "To be honest, we were going to get rid of the feed products when we bought the place, but then we realized how many people depended on it for their rabbits, horses, goats and birds. And we knew we'd aggravate everyone if we ended that."

So the 50-pound bags remain in the back of the store. But the racks of random and assorted books and small appliances are now gone from the center of the newly cleaned cafe.

"We spent the first two weeks cleaning," Shannan said. "And we still have whole pigs for roasting."

Then came the menu additions that have become wildly popular in just three months.

The DeLaRosas knew better than to mess with the Cuban mix, con leche or cheese toast and those aren't going anywhere. But the menu now features Jose's homemade gumbo, along with jambalaya, crawfish etouffee, red beans and rice and other Cajun specialties.

"Our goal is to serve food people crave," Shannan said.

Judging by the number of "regulars" who have already established their "usual," the plan is working. "We've gone through 55 gallons of gumbo in three months," Shannan said. "Jose's been making seafood gumbo since he was 12 years old. People love it."

And the DeLaRosas love their island and its people. Click.

mmiles@keysnews.com

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