Baked-goods business powers through, despite Idalia setbacks
A 1940s rusty pedal car, a black license plate that reads “I’m a Toys ‘R’ Us kid,” Disney VHS tapes and a clock that says when it’s time for coffee and when it’s time for wine are some of the things hanging on the walls of Cindy B Goods.
“It reminds me of a girlfriend's basement back in the 70s,” Scott Mello, 62, a regular customer at the bistro said.
Located at 1001 NW Fifth Ave. Suite B in Gainesville, Fla., Cindy B Goods is owned and operated by Cynthia “Cindy” Bevilacqua, 62, and Sheryl Eddie, 58.
The local business planned to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 31, to celebrate its expansion and the opening of its pop-up secondhand store.
Hurricane Idalia had other plans.
The Gainesville Chamber of Commerce had to reschedule the ceremony to Oct. 25 because of the unexpected storm.
This is not the first time they had to postpone celebrating the business’ milestones, Eddie said.
“Every time we reached a point where we thought we're going to do good, something happened,” she said.
Bevilacqua and Eddie first went into business together in 2019. They had been friends for over 20 years as they had previously worked together at St. Patrick Catholic Church.
Rather than starting off a new business together, they merged their existing businesses into one.
Bevilacqua previously had a small retail store where she sold collectors’ items that her late husband, Salvatore Bevilacqua, had once owned.
“You have to wait for the right person to come in to say, that's what I want,” Bevilacqua said. “In the meantime, I thought, well, there is the kitchen, and I'm not a cook, but I do like to bake.”
Her Italian mother-in-law, Nancy Bevilacqua, had taught Cindy how to bake bread from scratch when they lived together. Using her mother-in-law’s recipes, Cindy said she decided to turn her business into a baked-goods shop.
Eddie was working in the Early Learning Coalition of Alachua County and sold gourmet casseroles in her free time, she said.
Inspired by Bevilacqua’s decision to sell baked goods, Eddie said she decided to quit her job and put their talents together.
“I came in here and fell in love with what she was doing with the place,” she said. “She was singing, cleaning and fixing things. It felt like a movie and to me it was magical.”
They started to mix Eddie’s cooking skills with Bevilacqua’s homemade bread. The result was “‘wiches, stixs, balls and gourmet casseroles.” Mediterranean, spinach & feta, pepperoni and muffuletta (Italian Louisiana dish with olive relish, mortadella, provolone, mozzarella and salami) are some of the fillings of the calzone-style ‘wiches. The stixs have beef or polish sausage inside. Buffalo chicken, pulled pork and Italian meat are some of the fillings of the balls. All three items are encased in Bevilacqua’s homemade bread and then baked.
“Cindy and Sheryl definitely make an effort to get to know you and make you feel welcome,” said Brian Gurges, 22. “It just makes you want to keep coming back. They are my Gainesville grandmas.”
A few months after they partnered, in March of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and – like many other small businesses – Cindy B Goods started to struggle.
“We were open every day to crickets,” Bevilacqua said.
Eddie said the business had just gotten its liquor license, but no one was coming in. Besides business being slow during the pandemic, Bevilacqua and Eddie both had experienced family and friend losses that drove them to close the business periodically for a couple of months.
“Cindy lost her mother; I lost my mother. We gathered lots of personal loss during that COVID…” Eddie said. “I stopped counting the amount of people that I knew pretty darn good or loved very, very much that passed away. It just got to the point where it was overwhelming.”
Bevilacqua said the stimulus check they received from the CARES Act helped them pay for rent and prevented them from having to close for longer during the pandemic.
“It’s wine time. Talking ‘bout my wine. My wine,” Bevilacqua and Eddie sang in unison to the tune of “My Girl” by The Temptations, and they clinked their glasses against each other.
This is a tradition they started during the pandemic to focus on the positive, and they have continued it even to this day. Bevilacqua and Eddie record themselves talking with glasses of wine and post on social media.
“They do all kinds of stuff,” Al Spaulding, 32, said. “They're almost like their own variety shows like they do karaoke, they do skits, they do comedy based on current events…They're very entertaining.”
In 2022, the owners acquired additional space in the building but used it primarily for storage. Construction of the apartment building Theory Gainesville on Fifth Avenue prevented them from starting anything new with the space.
“Streets were blocked off, there were so many detour signs. It was killing our business,” Eddie said.
After Theory Gainesville opened its doors at the beginning of the school year, Bevilacqua and Eddie decided it was time to launch their new pop-up secondhand store and have a proper ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The event will take place from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Oct. 25.
The owners plan to open more space for seating once the secondhand store sells out and organize events such as karaoke, drag bingo and board game nights.
“Our goal is to make this a neighborhood café or bistro and to keep it going for as long as we can, until we're ready to retire.” Eddie said. “It's not to be a franchise thing. We want to keep it as a neighborhood place.”