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Company's dream fits in a soup can

Published August 10, 2007


TARPON SPRINGS - With Michael Houllis, it's all about soup.

His 15-year dream has finally come true: He's putting the classic Greek chicken-lemon-orzo soup into a can.

The first 3,000 cases of the soup, made at a plant in New Era, Mich., came out in mid June and are now in markets from Pinellas County to as far away as Chicago.

It began in 1992, Houllis said, right after his family sold its Island House Restaurant on Clearwater Beach.

The restaurant had been a popular dining spot for some 30 years and he worked there for 22 years. It was demolished to make way for a retail store, he said.

"Former customers would say how much they missed the Greek soup," he said. "I began inquiring about a soupmaking company, but had to put it on hold until about three years ago."

He formed Houllis' Island House Inc., doing business as It's Greek to Me Foods. His sister Madelyne LaChance and her son Darwin Salls are officers of the company and the three are operating the business together.

It took an investment of $100,000 to start the business, Houllis said.

After graduating from the University of South Florida in business and mass communications, Houllis thought he would become a sports writer. But the food business became his passion.

His family tree goes back to the Greek islands of Kalymnos and Halki. His maternal and paternal grandfathers were sponge divers and emigrated from the island to Tarpon Springs during the booming sponge era.

The soup, he said, "is a sacred food to the Greeks."

"Our grandmothers and mothers have made it for generations. There's nothing like sitting down with fresh Greek bread and a steaming bowl of the soup."

Some of the local markets that carry the gourmet soup, which costs $2.39 a can, include Harr's Surf & Turf Market in Palm Harbor, the Winn-Dixie in Tarpon Springs, John's Fresh Produce in Largo, Tommy's Produce in Clearwater and Park Street Produce in St. Petersburg.

To learn more about the soup, visit

Frontier Lighting strikes a new deal

Frontier Lighting Inc., a wholesale lighting distributor based in Clearwater, has purchased a 3 1/2-acre property at 2067 Calumet St. for $1.5-million. The sale was handled by Deron Thomas, president of Industrial Realty Solutions.

The property includes two warehouses that company president Gary Bach said were not usable and eventually will be torn down to make way for the company's new corporate headquarters. Until then, the property will be leased for outdoor storage, he said.

Frontier Lighting, at 2090 Palmetto St., was established in 1987 by Bach and Jeff McManus and currently has 44 employees and a second location in Bradenton.

Dollar Tree store opens in Tri-City

The Dollar Tree store, which was at 21800 U.S. 19 in Clearwater for a decade and closed July 22, has reopened in Tri-City Plaza, 16024 U.S. 19, Largo.

The new 12,000-square-foot store is having its grand opening with hot dogs and beverages from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Regular store hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Call the store at 727 530-7513.

The store is part of a leading chain of $1 discount variety stores, offering products including housewares, seasonal items, food, toys, party goods and books. As of February, there were 3,219 stores in 48 states.

Agents to represent Rutenberg homes

Dana Payne and Shawn Finnimore, veteran new home sellers, have been appointed by Catenac Custom Homes to handle the sale of Arthur Rutenberg homes at Grand Cypress on Lake Tarpon.

Payne has been selling new homes in the Tampa Bay area for 12 years. Before that, she sold homes in Naples and New Hampshire. She is a member of the Tampa Bay Builders Association's Sales and Marketing Council.

Finnimore has worked 10 years in new home sales in the Tampa Bay area. The Trinity resident is a member of the Tampa Bay Builders Association's Sales and Marketing Council.

The gated community, on U.S. 19 between Alderman and Klosterman roads in Palm Harbor, is planned for 109 luxury homes.

Business seminars, classes, assistance

- Pinellas County Business Development Center, 13805 58th St. N, Suite 1-200, in the Icot Business Center near Largo. Free. To speak with a business counselor or register for classes and seminars, call (727) 453-7200.

How to Start a Business meets from noon to 2 p.m. every Wednesday. The introductory workshop offers information on how to conduct feasibility studies and develop business plans, how to obtain licenses and permits to be a legal business in Pinellas County and more. Free. Advance registration requested.

Understanding Entrepreneurship meets from noon to 2 p.m. the first Thursday of each month. Find out if you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur and discover the challenges and rewards of owning your own business. Evaluate your business acumen, strengths and weaknesses.

Understanding Accounting and Tax Procedures meets from noon to 2 p.m. the second Thursday of each month. The seminar is designed to help small-business owners understand proper record keeping and accounting methods to satisfy federal and state requirements for taxes and payrolls.

Marketing Your Small Business meets from noon to 2 p.m. the third Thursday of each month.

Financing Your Business meets from noon to 2 p.m. the fourth Thursday of each month.

- Business Assistance Center at the Palm Harbor Library, 2330 Nebraska Ave. Meets from 1 to 3 p.m. every Tuesday and also from 5 to 7 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month. For an appointment, call (727) 784-4287.

The center provides information on starting and growing a business in Pinellas County. Assistance includes business plan development, permitting, zoning, government-regulations information and more. The business assistance specialist also provides information to assist local companies looking to export their products and foreign companies wanting to establish operations in Pinellas County.

News of businesses and business people can be faxed to the Business Digest at 445-4119, e-mailed to or mailed to Business Digest, 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756. We are interested in new and unusual businesses, promotions, expansions, commercial sales and major new contracts. Photos can be mailed or e-mailed by jpeg file.

[Last modified August 10, 2007, 07:34:21]

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