Ocoee businesses raise money for pizzeria owner after break-in

By Julie Gargotta, Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, December 29, 2017, 5:27 PM EST

After a restaurant break-in on Christmas night, businesses in Ocoee are rallying behind the owner and her family.

  • Someone smashed the front door of Franco's Pizzeria on Christmas
  • Franco's owner already battling cervical cancer
  • Local businesses helping owner with repairs, health bills

“I know this community really has everybody’s back," said Jessica Pollack. "When you’re in Ocoee, Ocoee supports Ocoee.”

Pollack, who owns Sweet Jessie’s Homemade Ice Cream, began a campaign to raise money to help Franco's Pizzeria get up and running once again.

“Christmas night they got the alarm call and it was devastating," she said. “It hit us all, it really hit us all. She’s so positive, she still gets out there and helps everybody.”

She being Debra Nix. The owner of Franco's for years has served as an integral part of the community.

“We just kind of clicked," said family friend Nikki Fosnaugh. “Sometimes, when she has bad nights, I’ll go over and spend time with her.”

Nix twice battled cervical cancer and won. Now, said Fosnaugh, the cancer is back for a third time -- and with a vengeance. 

So the morning after Christmas Fosnaugh was shocked to hear what happened to her friend's business.

Though nothing was taken, according to police reports, vandals smashed the front door of Franco’s Pizzeria, leaving hundreds of dollars of damage.

“When she called me, I was on my way to work. I could not even understand her at all, I heard something about Franco’s," she said. “They’ve poured blood, sweat and tears into this place. It’s not like its a hole in the wall nobody knows about, everybody knows. So, it’s extremely personal.”

But, Fosnaugh, Nix and others were thrilled when they found out local businesses were rallying behind Franco's.

“She is such a well-known community person that it was so nice to see that everybody else was doing the same for her," said Fosnaugh.

Lashonda Geffrard, who owns The Paw Shop pet grooming, set out a jar with the family's picture on it.

“I think it’s really important to be one with the community and support our local business owners, being a small business myself," she said.

On Friday, another welcome surprise, as the glass repair shop who fixed Franco's door waived the repair fee. According to an employee, the owner learned of Nix's struggle to pay mounting medical bills and wanted to help.

Now, Pollack said, all extra money from their jar fundraiser will go towards helping out with those costs as well.

“I just hope that she can focus on her health, battle that out. She’s going to get better, I know it," she said.

The businesses just got another fundraiser approved Friday, an event open to the community on Jan. 27 at Bill Breeze Park. Proceeds will help pay Nix’s medical bills.

They tell News 13 that the mayor and city commissioners expedited the process, waiving the park rental fee.