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Sunday, Mar 29, 2015

Papa Joe's owners focus on gift shop and spa

Hernando Today correspondent


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Donna Giarratana stands inside Capricci Gifts & Healing Waters, just days after an electrical fire leveled the restaurant next door that she and her husband, Joe, had started over 32 years ago. Her eyes moistened as she reminisced about the Papa Joe's beginnings, grounding each narration with a deep connection to her and Joe's spiritual base.

Donna Giarratana narrated a story of the dream she had the night before Papa Joe's grand opening.

"We had invested everything we had in the restaurant," she said, "and we were worried no one would show up."

In her dream people were lined up outside the door and through the parking lot. They had come for the 99 cent spaghetti special, she said.

The next day, Giarratana relived the dream almost to the smallest detail. People stormed Papa Joe's parking lot, lining up to try the spaghetti special. Giarratana had no waitress experience. She watched as people who had come to wish them well and whom they had known through their previous business endeavors came out of line and asked if they could help.

"They started taking orders," she said, her eyes now pooling.

"So many memories inside those walls," Giarratana said, turning toward the restaurant with exterior walls still standing amid cindered remains, just outside the gift shop's doors. Her voice cracked a bit. "So many times my hands touched a counter top or brushed against a table. Now they're all gone."

And as quickly as the tears appeared, they were replaced with a twinkle of perseverance. After all, Giarratana still had the responsibility of Capricci Gifts & Healing Waters to take her attention away from mourning.

Almost 20 years ago, the Giarratanas opened the gift shop next door to the family's restaurant. About five years ago, they add the day spa. Capricci Gifts & Healing Waters became a regular visit for those who came for dinner at Papa Joe's.

Often, customers would browse the displays of gifts and healthy products and then book appointments for one of her facials and body treatments or massages.

But Giarratana worries that Capricci Gifts & Healing Waters might not be able to stay in business without its anchor.

"We always depended on the traffic into Papa Joe's," she said. "It was never intended to stand alone."

Yet it will have to stand alone, at least for now, as the future of Papa Joe's remains unclear.

The gift shop and spa building has its own character, molded to calm and comfort those who discover its healing affect. And the journey begins through a beautiful garden with flourishing plant life and trickling water. Benches invite visitors to rest a bit so they can take in the atmosphere around them.

Weddings and parties have been booked here, inspired by the gentle peace and serenity.

Once inside the little shop, the experience turns to the art of nourishing the senses. Healing products fill shelves, from nourishing skin care products to products which help balance the body from inside out and address ailments such as arthritis or skin problems like rosacea.

"Most of the products on our shelves have all been proven through our own use," Giarratana said. And she has testimonials and documentation to prove it.

Capricci Gifts & Healing Waters is as much about restoring natural beauty as it is about indulgence. Giarratana begins a client's experience with a consultation, initiated by a quick questionnaire. She uses this time to gain perspective into about what each client hopes to take away from a visit.

Then the real pampering begins. Inside rooms decorated with plush linens, velvety bedding and serene décor, clients get lost in the experience.

She books about three appointments a day, Giarratana said, since each requires a very detailed process of indulging the skin while also nurturing the other senses. Gentle soothing music is piped in with chimes, soft flowery scents tease the nose, and eye pleasing displays complete the experience.

Depending on the treatment, Giarratana leaves no luxury amiss. Hot towels, warm booties for the feet and gentle products that saturate the skin with moisture and antioxidants are part of the overall design.

But treatments are more than moments of stolen luxury, they are part of a lifestyle change. Giarratana hopes her clients will return on a regular basis so she can monitor their progress toward meeting their individual healthy skin care goals.

In between visits, Giarratana recommends a variety of products, customized for each client. They include skin care products with proven ingredients and documented results to fortifying products that help to replenish the body with certain vitamins and minerals needed for healthy skin.

Contact Hernando Today correspondent Kim Dame at

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