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Hi.  My name is Whitney Willis and I am the proud owner of Willow's Cafe in the Rosemary District in Sarasota, Florida.  Welcome to my Blog.

My Blog

There are a million things I love about being a cafe owner.  I love meeting new people.  I love seeing the kids play in the back and enjoying our kids area.  I love the dogs that stop by and stick their face against the glass to get our attention so they can get their special treat.  I love when the dog owners bring their friends in to show them the picture of their dog on the wall, or their dog's name on the menu.  I love the community I live and work in and I love the many compliments we get about how the customer felt like they were at home with how comfortable they felt being here.  I have worked hard to create a space where people can kick back and relax with a good cup of coffee, good food and good conversation.  But my favorite part is the quiet mornings when I get here early and its super dark out but the cafe lights make the corner glow.  I can finish my prep and sit down with a cup of coffee and look at the birds and squirrels and the beginning of daylight, right before the hustle bustle starts, and just think back to why I started this journey and where is it leading me.  There is a beautiful peacefulness that takes over and I push on, never knowing if I'll make it through the next year or not but never slowing down or giving up.  I step back and breathe and appreciate what has been accomplished in 3 years.  Come in and see for yourself.  God Bless

My Blog     11-13-23

Trees.  I have always felt a connection to trees.  When I moved out of my parents house when I was younger, I moved in with my best friend from high school and his twin brother.  I was so excited to be on my own and have my own space.  The first thing I did was paint my room green and then I painted a giant tree on the wall.  Above that I painted special quotes from poems I loved or ones I had written myself.  I wasn't really sure the whole meaning of the tree but from that moment it became a connection with me.  When I decided to start a path to owning my own cafe, obviously location was important but I had to feel something for the space I was going to rent.  After searching for several months I was about to give up when I saw an ad on Marketplace that there was a space for rent that had already been a cafe.  I was so excited.  I raced to the location and directly in front of the storefront was a beautiful tree.  Don't ask me what kind of tree it is because I cant tell you but if you stop by you will see it.  And I'm not sure what drew me to it at first but looking back it has given me a lot of my strength.  When I get discouraged or feel defeated I go outside and sit and look at that tree.  My daughter has a birdhouse she has painted and hung in the tree,  I have plants hanging off its branches and my daughter Willow feeds the birds and squirrels that seek shelter there.  She actually has the squirrel trained to eat from her hand.  When I'm outside just trying to find some peace from the hecticness of this business there is a comfort in seeing these little creatures looking to you for love and companionship, and food of course.  That tree has grown with me and my daughter over the years.  It has watched me cry and it has watched me laugh, it has felt my sadness and felt my triumphs.  It might sound silly but it has been somewhat of a rock for me.  I probably should be writing about my food and how awesome my cafe is but come see for yourself and see this amazing tree.  If you feel like talking I promise it is a good listener.

My Blog 12-19-2023

Its been a second since I have wrote anything so I figured today is as good a day as any.  Here's a fun fact........when I opened the cafe I had no idea how to cook.  I mean I could open a box of pasta or scramble some eggs or cut some cheese and salami with a box of crackers, but cooking, I had no clue. Put it this way, at family holidays I was the one that brought the bread or the deviled eggs.  That is the only thing my family trusted me with.  Working in the food industry I was always in the front of the house.  That is what I knew I was the best at.  I could connect with people through my personality and not my cooking skills.  My poor son grew up coming to work with me but spent most of dinner time at local restaurants because I had no desire to cook, nor did I know how.  I knew when I opened the cafe pretty much what I wanted to offer on the menu but had no idea how to prepare the food so I knew I had to have someone in place to see my dream without teaching them how I wanted it done.  A few of the people I had in place to work with me were foodies at heart so they lent me recipes to work with but I had to rely on the cooks vision to get the job done and believe it or not, their vision was not always mine.  That being said, money was getting tight, (opening two weeks after quarantine didn't help) and paying a cook was very difficult so I just watched what he did for a few weeks then I had to let him go.  That meant to stay open I was going to have to cook.  Not fun for me but with my friends pushing me everyday and convincing me I could do this, I came through and am still learning everyday.  My hollandaise sauce is my own and what people write most about.  A friend that followed me as a customer from the previous restaurant I worked at told me one day my grits were horrible.  They were the worst he ever had.  I followed the directions on the package so I wasn't sure what else I was supposed to do. It stayed in my head though and I decided I better figure something out so that's what I did and personally, (I don't even like grits) they are the best I have ever had and they are now the best he has ever had.  You don't know how far your ability to do things will stretch until its do or die and you have to figure it out or you will fail.  Failing to me was never an option.  Believe it or not there are months when there is less than $1000 in my bank account and I stretch it and make a comeback.  I didn't open the cafe to be rolling in the dough but what opening it has taught me is that when pushed I can do just about anything I set my mind to and giving up is something that doesn't exist to me.  I want my daughter to learn that hard work pays off and push your limits constantly.  There will be heartache and tears, and yes your hair might fall out from stress (mine did) but pick yourself up, put that smile on your face, trust that God has your back, and keep going.   I've come this far so I AIN"T stopping now.


I'm always looking for new and exciting opportunities. Let's connect.


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