Mom’s cinnamon rolls are safe
“What you need, baby?”
Heather Reagan’s attention stays focused on the customer in front of her, despite the chaos of her girls around her, delivering orders, preparing drinks and making change.
Mom’s Fresh Produce and Baked Goods indoor cafe gets crowded in the mornings, as newcomers and repeat customers join the growing queue to order breakfast dishes, fresh juice, and of course, owner Reagan’s famous cinnamon rolls.
“Help yourself to some coffee back there, honey.”
Reagan and her staff’s congenial attitudes have developed a familial love between her loyal patrons and her restaurants – and when her cafe was in jeopardy of shutting down, her customers came to her defense.
“I grew up in Delray Beach. There were little businesses there, every restaurant was owned by your neighbor,” said Matt Bower, a new resident and a Mom’s patron. “That’s all gone, there are no small businesses there. I don’t live in Delray anymore, I moved to Fort Myers Beach. Let’s not be the reason another small business collapses.”
Reagan has been running businesses on the island for about 20 years. She started with the Heavenly Biscuit before moving up the street and opening Mom’s in July 2015. It started as a produce stand and bakery, but she expanded to serve breakfast and lunch. She has about six employees, most of whom are also island residents.
However, the building she moved into and shares with a real estate company, did not allow a restaurant in its land use zoning, boulevard commercial.
Reagan was cited for a code violation, and the case was heard at special magistrate. Her choices were to shut down the kitchen or to apply for a rezoning of the parcel to commercial planned development.
“She believed the retail sale of food (license) was sufficient to have a restaurant,” said her attorney, Matt Uley, at the second hearing of her rezoning case Tuesday, Feb. 21.
Her request was ultimately approved by the Town Council at the Tuesday, Feb. 21 meeting. Reagan’s beloved restaurant is safe – as long as she meets some conditions within a 60-day period.
Town Council’s biggest concern with rezoning was that the restaurant and real estate combo would have sufficient parking.
Reagan and her customers all say that many of her clientele bike or walk from nearby rentals and homes to pick up breakfast. She’s installed two bike racks, which count as a parking space.
“With the construction, people are looking for somewhere to go that’s easy,” Reagan said, “We get so much walk-up business.”
Tom Swanbeck of Swanbeck Realty Group, which occupies the other half of the building, also testified in support of the property rezoning.
“The parking for us is not an issue,” he said. “My intent is to improve the parking when the construction is over – paint the lines, the bumpers, and direct the traffic more.”
The property currently has five parking spots, and Noble said there was room for about three more. The council agreed to rezone the property if Reagan could ensure that there would be 10 parking spots for the restaurant and four for the real estate office. With bike racks counting toward one parking space and five already on the property, the council tasked her with reconfiguring the parking to fit more spaces on the property or finding parking to rent in one of the nearby lots to meet her requirement.
“I did a site visit, and it was chaos,” Council Member Tracey Gore said. The parking lot was very busy at the time, she said.
The council also put a timestamp on Mom’s business hours, allowing her to operate from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.and prohibited outdoor entertainment.
“I feel as conditioned, the hours, the parking, we’ve done what we need to protect the neighborhood realm,” Council Member Joanne Shamp said.
Gore agreed, saying she was “happy with the way we worked this out.”
It was a rare moment of cooperative policy making for the town – the compromise was reached and approved unanimously by the council and by Reagan.
“Congratulations to the council to help a small business owner make her plan successful,” Council Member Anita Cereceda said.
While many customers came out in support of the establishment, a family living on the street behind the restaurant has voiced its displeasure at the restaurant’s impact on their home, especially with customers allegedly parking in front of their home to visit the business. Resident Dave Tezak emailed the commissioners opposing the rezoning; his daughter, Madison Tezak, spoke during public comment.
“(Mom’s) causes litter, people park where we live,” she said. “It’s a very personal thing on our street.”
However Sylvia Lucas, another resident living on the road near Mom’s, said the restaurant wasn’t causing any problems and as a patron herself, she walks everywhere because of the construction.
“The parking thing, anywhere, with construction is horrible,” she said. “I don’t think it’s a permanent issue, it’s a short term issue. “
Eddie Foster, another beach resident, said the town should see Mom’s as an asset and support its endeavors – especially when so many small businesses can’t survive the summer, and Mom’s has, she said.
“Fewer small businesses are run by women, and she hires women,” Foster said. “Small businesses make America.”
It might have just been coincidence, but maybe it was also a little bit of luck for Reagan’s rezoning approval: Tuesday, Feb. 21 was national sticky bun day.
“I’m happy to be here – I’m living the dream,” Reagan said. “I’ve got the best job in the world.”