The owners of Sweet Cup Café, which offers a taste of Mexico on Lakeland Hills Boulevard, had to delay opening by more than a year because of the pandemic, but they say social media has given their business a big boost.

Sisters Yesenia, 21, and Francelly Garcia, 31, of Lakeland, said members of Facebook’s  Lakeland Food Group  have been very supportive and have provided a steady flow of regular customers.

“We’ve been very blessed, and we appreciate all of the support,” said Yesenia Garcia, mentioning they also receive a lot of customers from the medical offices nearby.

The café is at 1401 Lakeland Hills Blvd., diagonally across from the Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center emergency room.   

It is open daily until 5 p.m. and provides Mexican on-the-go food such as churros, tacos, quesadillas, tostadas, tortas, smoothies, coffee, pastries, fruit cups, and parfaits.

They use local sources where possible: coffee from Ethos Coffee Roasters, cakes from Cake Makers Studio, and pastries from Panaderia San Miguel in Plant City.

According to the sisters, the tacos, burritos, and mango smoothies are their best sellers. They also offer delivery services through Grubhub.

“We have a lot of genuine, repeat customers [who] tell all of their friends,”  said Francelly Garcia. “Our food, and our coffee, everything … our products speak for themselves.”

Francelly said their churros remind her of an American sugar donut, but instead of a circle, they take the form of a stick, and are crunchy and have sugar and cinnamon on top. Some of their churros are stuffed with cream or caramel.   

“They’re very popular in Mexican culture,” Francelly Garcia explained. “The name is sweet cup because we were going to sell cups. Cups of coffees, smoothies in a cup, the churros, the initial idea was to put several churros in a cup.”

This is the sisters’ first venture in food service. Yesenia studied in Tenoroc High School’s culinary career academy for four years, and said it provided her with experience working in a commercial kitchen.

Francelly attributes being a teen mom and having to grow up fast to her ability to whip up good Mexican food. The sisters’ parents also own a wholesale produce company, which they say taught them business skills while they were young.

Opening the café was Francelly’s idea.

“I’ve always wanted to have ideally a little food truck that I could just take around the world selling churros and coffee. That was the initial dream or idea,” Francelly Garcia said.  “Then when we saw the building was up for rent, we’re like oh that’s a cute little spot. Maybe we can do something with it.’“

The sisters signed the lease in November 2019, but due to the pandemic, they decided to wait to open until March 2021.

“With COVID, you don’t want to open up a café during the time when everybody is shutting down, so we just thought we’d take our loss in paying rent and rough it out until we thought things were getting better,” Francelly explained.  

One day, the sisters would love to expand elsewhere to south Lakeland or another city.

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Stephanie Claytor has been a broadcast and digital journalist in Lakeland since 2016, covering Polk County for Bay News 9 and currently free-lancing for LkldNow. She is an author of travel and children's books.

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