LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Lakewood Ranch's San Marco Plaza, opened in 2007 and designed like the famous Piazza San Marco Square in Venice, Italy, is slowly filling its vacant retail space.
New owners, who sell low-calorie and vegan ice cream, bought Suite 107, which sat vacant for more than seven years.
D'Lites Shoppe, 8209 Nature's Way, near the popular Thai Spice & Sushi and Pancake House restaurant, is a labor of love for owners Kirsten George, 25, and Zachary Mestancik, 31, a couple who moved to Lakewood Ranch from Orlando last year. After looking for commercial space along University Parkway they chose to stay closer to home in Lakewood Ranch.
"I love the situation we're in. We actually own the space and we don't have to pay rent. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else," George said, while overseeing the store with one of several part-time employees. Some of those new employees are health-conscious Lakewood Ranch High School students.
The products sold at D'Lites Shoppe are gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, vegan, paleo, organic and low calorie. D'Lites soft serve ice cream, which is different from yogurt, is only 50 calories, low in sugar, carbohydrates, fat and cholesterol and Weight Watcher friendly.
Their all-natural, organic ice cream is made with coconut milk and coconut cream and contains no added sugar, perfect for a vegan and lactose-intolerant diet, or those with milk allergies.
Customers can buy fresh, prepared meals delivered by Above the Grain, a Lakewood Ranch company specializing in paleo-catered cuisine. The store also sells organic coffee and teas, smoothies and protein shakes.
"I'm very health conscious. My goal was to find guiltless ice cream that satisfies a sweet tooth, and it's working because we get a lot of repeat customers," George said. "Even for the walk-ins who are curious, they try the ice cream and they say it tastes good."
Construction and design of the 1,850-square-foot wedged-shaped store was Mestancik's responsibility. He has prior business experience helping companies create quality control. D'Lites has an inviting sky-blue interior, soft lighting, wood tables and floors, a large ice cream and beverage counter, a freezer for custom D'Lite ice cream cakes and wooden shelves with rows of healthy products and snacks sourced from locally owned businesses.
"We like what it looks like and I think it suits us very well," he said.
San Marco Plaza is the only commercial condo retail center in Lakewood Ranch.
"The plaza is perfect for our business and everyone here is so supportive and nice. They recommend everyone," George said.
More information about D'Lites Shoppe is available at dlitesshoppe.com.
Kathryn Moschella, East Manatee reporter can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @Moschella Herald.