The property at North Florida Avenue and 8th Street is special to Denise Gilmore. She spent much of her childhood there in her grandparents’ house. She worked across the street at Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center for 27 years. And she is in the process of making it the home of Mary’s Bagel Café, named after her grandmother.

The breakfast and lunch venue is scheduled to open by next spring at 1242 N. Florida Ave.

Gilmore plans to serve bagels, bagel sandwiches, burgers, salads, soups, desserts, fresh fruit, gourmet coffees, and her gourmet cinnamon buns. The restaurant will have indoor and outdoor seating, curbside and pickup options, as well as delivery through a third-party service.

“My vision for the café is to give back to my community. I plan to hire local people, purchase items from local entrepreneurs, and reinvest some of the earnings into local charities,” said Gilmore, 50, a lifelong resident of Lakeland.

Gilmore said she inherited the now-vacant lot from her grandparents. It has special meaning to her as she spent much of her childhood on the property. The house that once stood there was removed in 2005.

“I am really looking forward to opening Mary’s Bagel Cafe’ on the property I was raised on,” she said. “I can recall 8th Street was a dirt road and Florida Avenue was a single lane north and south bound. Over the years I have gotten calls asking if I want to sell and the answer was always no.”

Leaving a legacy is important to her. “This [café] is something that I can leave to my kids and grandkids and continue the legacy and keep the land in the family,” Gilmore said. 

Mary was the name of Gilmore’s grandmother. She showed her how to bake and cook at an early age, skills that would serve her throughout life.

She currently runs Dee’s Gourmet Cinnamon Treats LLC out of her home. 

“All of our products are baked fresh from the oven [with] a variety of fresh decadent toppings from strawberry, blueberry, peach cobbler, sticky bun, apple spice, caramel, candied bacon, traditional,” Gilmore explained. 

She said she takes orders online, delivers them locally and ships the buns across the nation. 

Gilmore is also the owner of Lakeland Wedding Planning.

Gilmore also spent most of her career near the café’s location. She retired from Lakeland Regional Health after working in the hospital for 27 years. She began her career there working in the coffee shop and progressed to catering and ended her career assisting with supply chain management for the hospital’s Respiratory Department. 

Gilmore said the 1,700-square-foot cafe will be open seven days a week for breakfast and lunch and stay open until 7 p.m. on Fridays. 

The Lakeland Community Redevelopment Agency is assisting Gilmore with the project, providing her a $90,000 Infill Adaptive Reuse Grant. According to Gilmore, the overall cost of the project is expected to be around $700,000. 

SEND CORRECTIONS, questions, feedback or news tips:


Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.

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.

Leave a comment

Your Thoughts On This? (Comments are moderated; first and last name are required.)