Local Limelight 2

Getting To Know Some of Cape Coral’s Small Business Entrepreneurs

Typically, we associate entrepreneurs with persistence, determination, creativity and perseverance. Certainly, the local entrepreneurs we’re featuring in this issue have those characteristics in common. However, when you read their stories, you may be convinced that there is no such thing as a typical entrepreneur.

Some had hit rock bottom, then rose up to great success. Other’s fulfilled childhood dreams, or found a new passion. A married couple started over with their own company. Another couple’s fun project led to a comprehensive community dot-com. Three young people dedicated themselves to developing super nutritious greens.

Add the following characteristics to our featured entrepreneurs: faith, humility, love of family and community. Now you have the full picture.

Lenny Greco {Greco Jewelers}

When asked what he’s most passionate about, Lenny Greco, owner of Greco Jewelers, doesn’t talk about the exquisite items his store has to offer. He talks about recovery, tenacity, his love and admiration for his wife, and his relationship with God…”He stuck with me when I had fallen flat on my face. I succeeded in spite of myself.”

As a young man, Greco had been tending bar in Manhattan when he moved to Florida. His first job here was at a local jewelers where he was blessed with a boss who told him he was never going to succeed in SW Florida if he didn’t slow down. She taught him to walk and talk slower. She taught him to listen.

Greco experienced many successes along with traumatic disappointments working for other jewelry companies. Fulfillment came when he went into business for himself.

Says Greco,  “Whether it’s a young couple with two nickels to rub together looking for an engagement ring, or an older couple excited about purchasing something spectacular, we make someone happy. You can’t ask for a better day.”


Jeff and Laura Koehn {CapeCoral.com}

At sixteen, native Floridian, Jeff Koehn, knew he was good at sales when he earned money selling vacation packages. The teenager also knew he had an aptitude for writing “book reports.” Decades later, when he became a partner in CapeCoral.com, he attended various local events to take photos, but he always carried a small notebook.

Koehn recalls visiting a Pop Warner football camp. “I found myself in the middle of the field surrounded by ex-NFL players who were shouting quotes at me!” Out came the notebook. He went home and wrote a “book report.” CapeCoral.com shifted from being an always positive little local events project, to a comprehensive, unbiased, story oriented local news source.

“No slant,” says Koehn, “we want our readers to make up their own minds.”

Koehn spoke of the Cape’s doldrums years when he and his wife, Marketing Director, Laura Koehn, along with his staff, “walked hand in hand with the community. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.” Readership has increased by double digits every year since the website’s inception in 2009.


Mark Taylor {Edible Arrangements}

Mark Taylor, owner of Edible Arrangements in Cape Coral reminisced, “Eleven years ago my wife and I sent an arrangement, through another distributer, to my mother-in-law who lived in a nursing home. It was a big hit with the residents of the home. We decided, ‘What a great business! It’s fun to send it. It’s fun to receive it. This is what we’re going to do!’ ”

Taylor, doesn’t sell typical fruit bouquets at his dynamic, new location in Coralwood Center. He adds chocolate and other goodies! There are many tasty treats at Edible Arrangements, all made with natural ingredients; snack sized cones filled with chocolate covered fruit, confetti stars and cupcakes, frozen yogurt parfaits and fruit smoothies. Their newest offering is an elegant box of chocolates…eighteen bites of luscious gourmet chocolates enhanced with a variety of natural flavorings.

Taylor, tells the story of a man who wanted a “Hello Kitty” bouquet with chocolate covered strawberries for his daughter. Taylor asked, “Is it her birthday?” The man replied, “No, it’s for her Cabbage Patch Doll’s birthday party!”


Rachel Shemenski, Nick Shemenski and Rob Epple {Florida Microgreens}

Rob Epple had been cultivating food at his home for years where he experimented with water culture and growing hydroponically. He served the healthy, flavorful food to his family. And thought, “Why shouldn’t every family be able to experience this?”

Epple consulted Chef Jack Elias, a teacher at Hi Tech North, and expressed interest in starting a business specializing in microgreens. He asked the chef, “Why don’t we see more microgreens in our area restaurants and on the tables at home?” Chef Jack replied, “Two problems…cost and shelf life.”

It took about six months for Epple and his partners, Rachel Shemenski and Nick Shemenski to develop a solution…live microgreens growing in food safe trays. Today Florida Microgreens delivers the living delicacies to restaurants all around Lee County and will soon make them available to private households.

These microgreens are grown indoors with purified water only. Said Rachel Shemenski, “They are a clean, safe, natural food that is packed with nutrients.” Recent studies indicate that the tiny foods are four to forty times more nutritious than the adult plant.


Phil Rivera {Felipe’s Creations}

Woodcrafter, Phil Rivera, owner of Felipe’s Creations, trolls the waters of Lee County in his twelve foot Jon boat looking for treasure. He’s not hunting for gold or silver, he’s searching for driftwood. The artist uses not only driftwood in his stunning creations, but collects wood from dilapidated old barns, cast out furniture, wooden plats and downed trees. “Sometimes people bring me stuff!” he laughed. Much of his work can be seen throughout Cape Christian Church in Cape Coral, where he and his family are members.

In 2007, Rivera, who had been working as a trim and frame carpenter, lost everything in the housing crash. Then began the fulfillment of his childhood dream…wood crafting. “Just goes to show, something good can come from something bad,” He said.

From large pieces such as a colorful wood planked wall, gorgeous rustic furniture pieces and sculpted wall art, to the smallest wooden cross or tiny angel, Rivera creates unique and lasting works of art.

“Mother Nature makes the parts, I put them together.”

To see some of his art, visit his Facebook page, “Felipes Creations.”

Ron and Stacy Lomonaco {Ron’s Airport Transportation}

In 2008 when Ron and Stacy Lomonaco founded Ron’s Airport Transportation, they started with one car, one customer, and when gas was four dollars a gallon.

“Stacy was the driving force behind our going into business for ourselves,” said Ron, who had been dissatisfied working for another company. One night Stacy said to him, ‘You’re done! Let’s go for it!” The next day they were at City Hall setting up their company.

The Lomonacos place emphasis on comfort and communication. All vehicles are non-smoking. The driver calls the client the night before pick up, and calls again when on the way.

Years ago, Ron was scheduled to collect an elderly woman in Ft. Myers at 4:00 a.m. He called her the night before. She confirmed. He called her the next morning to tell her he was in route…No answer. He reached her house, knocked on the door…No answer. He dialed 911. The police and fire department arrived and knocked down the door. The woman was in a diabetic coma. She survived because Ron Lomonaco went beyond the call of duty.


Dave Lapio {Pan Dave}

Dave Lapio’s career as a chemist in New Hampshire had become very stressful. Then, in 1988, while on a Caribbean cruise and listening to the ship’s calypso band, Lapio, an accomplished musician himself, was entranced by the sound of the steel drum. He made a decision. “This is what I want to do.”

He quit his job, moved to Florida and taught himself to play steel drum. Subsequently, he, “learned to play properly,” at steel band competitions in Trinidad. He’s been a professional “Pan Player” ever since.

During his performance, his subtly undulating body becomes one with the melody of the shining, handmade instrument. In 1998 he was invited by a music professor at the University of Florida to participate in a concert with the thirty two member student “Steel Drum Band.” At rehearsal, the band suddenly quit playing. Lapio found himself playing solo. A student turned to the professor and exclaimed, “Look, Professor! He’s moving!”

Says Lapio’s wife, Ruth, “The only time I see the chemist in him is when he’s measuring water for coffee. He’s very precise.”