POINCIANA – Lisa Concepcion D’Cato was sad to see one of her favorite local restaurants, Slice of New York, close its doors in February.
”I was so depressed about that,” she said.
A unique mix of Italian and Latin food, Slice of New York had been operating out of a commercial plaza where the anchor store, Winn Dixie, had closed the previous September, leaving behind considerably less foot traffic to the shopping plaza than a year earlier.
D’Cato said part of the problem may simply be that Poinciana residents are not fully aware of the businesses operating in their own back yard. A community of 69,000 residents spread across 10 villages and two counties, Polk and Osceola, the people who have moved to Poinciana in the past few years may not even know there were great restaurants like Slice of New York to dine at, D’Cato said.
“I think they’re not aware of what’s here,” she said.
D’Cato is hoping that changes this week, when the Poinciana Area Council presents its 5th Annual Expo at the Poinciana Community Complex at 395 Marigold Ave. on Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. There will be more than 60 booths rented out by local businesses, plus a food court and activities for kids. And in a healthy sign for the battered Poinciana economy, the council has sold out all 60 booths inside the community complex, D’Cato said, while just a few booths are still available outside.
“The community center is sold out, which is a great thing,” she said.
The Poinciana Area Council is sponsored by the Kissimmee-Osceola County Chamber of Commerce, and is made up of local business owners who meet once a month and who organize special events like this one, which is the top annual fund-raiser for the council.
The Poinciana economy has been on a roller coaster ride for most of the past decade. When the housing market was on fire, the community saw an unprecedented building boom, and the population on the Osceola County side alone soared from 13,000 to 59,000 – one of the fastest growth rates in the state.
But when the housing market collapsed, Poinciana ended up with a high home foreclosure rate and a struggling economy. D’Cato said businesses today are still having a tough time staying above water.
“For a while, the businesses were coming up as fast as the houses,” she said. “Now they’re all closing.”
Still, the business expo is a great opportunity to show what Poinciana does have, which is why D’Cato is urging local residents to stop by and check it out. At a time when gas prices are zeroing on on $4 a gallon, she said, why drive outside of Poinciana when you can find out what’s available in your own community
“They don’t have to spend $3.77 per gallon to drive around when they can come see us,” she said.
“It’s really important that we get public support for the expo,” said Wendy Farrell, a member of the PAC. “The more successful it is for the businesses, next year they will come back.”
One very hopeful sign this year, D’Cato said, is the new food court, which will be located outside the community center under a tent just in case the weather becomes problematic, and it features food by four new restaurants in the community. One is Kissimmee Cowboy Barbeque, located in the Shops of Bellalago at the Bellalago subdivision.
“It’s a pretty neat restaurant,” D’Cato said. “They even have a drive through.”
The second is Pazzaluna, a new Italian restaurant.
“It means ‘Crazy Moon,’ “ D’Cato said. “And I only know that because I call my daughter Pazza, which means crazy.”
The next is Bob’s Barbeque, which is sharing space with NYPD Pizza in the Poinciana Business Center, and a new Quiznos is the fourth.
“We actually have five food vendors in total,” Farrell said, noting that Pizza Hut will be the fifth one. “It’s a case of come out and have a taste of Poinciana.”
Farrell also noted some more good news: that the owners of Slice of New York are planning to reopen at their old location – a case of back by popular demand.
“They are actually going back to where they were, and it’s going to be refurbished, under a new name,” Farrell said. “No firm date yet, but hopefully soon. The community missed them so much, so hopefully when they come back there will be more support than ever before. It’s the idea of you don’t really appreciate something until it’s gone.”
That, D’Cato said, is exactly the philosophy behind the entire expo.
“Local people really need to start supporting their local businesses,” D’Cato said, adding that the business expo is a great place to start.
In addition, this year’s expo will be held in conjunction with the Poinciana YMCA, which is hosting Healthy Kids Day.
“That’s a national event with the Y,” D’Cato said.
To rent vendor space for Saturday’s event, call Elaine Baggett at the Kissimmee-Osceola County Chamber at 407-847-4339. For more information on the expo itself, call Vianca McCluskey at 407-343-2002.
Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.