Florida on a Tankful: Garden center turned café

By Scott Fais, Feature Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, February 09, 2017, 9:19 AM EST

Located on the main strip in Sebring, awaits a garden that's in bloom.

"We have annuals, we have beautiful trees,” Lolly McClane during a stroll.

Lolly came to the United States from El Salvador, where started an urban garden center outside downtown Sebring.

"You see the gardens from every angle,” she said while giving a tour of the grounds.

The lapping water fountain sounds inviting and the flowers are colorful. One problem: despite it's beauty, Lolly’s garden store didn't prove popular.

"I was so surprised when customers came because they wanted to eat, and they were not interested in buying flowers,” Lolly recalled. “I still remember thinking, what do you mean?”

What went wrong?

"They actually wanted a restaurant,” Lolly said.

That's why her garden center became a café.

"Are you all ready to order?” Lolly gladly asks customers during the midday rush.

While the Garden Cafe still has flowers, they are planted. And not for sale.

"The setting is an open cafe, among a lot of flowers,” Lolly boasted.

Diners relax among the plants outside or inside the dining area that features natural light and large roll-up doors.

The menu features a healthy fare, made with fresh produce. In fact, the former flower boxes now grow herbs.

How does somebody who was in the business of growing plants turn around and start making food? Well, the answer may surprise you.

"I had never been in the restaurant business," she said.

Lolly received a development grant to convert the garden into a café and watch her dreams grow. It worked. Even the over-flow parking lot fills up at lunch.

Sandwiches, salads and daily specials keeps folks coming in, and Lolly hopping. One moment she is working alongside the chefs in her kitchen, to delivering food the next.

The setting is perfect for a quiet Valentine’s Day doing something new.

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