Rogers’ Christmas House is closed

Rogers’ Christmas House Village, long considered the biggest tourism magnet in Brooksville, has closed its doors.
Christmas House sold to owners of Saxon Manor

Owner George Rodriguez confirmed the closing when contacted over the phone Friday afternoon, but declined to comment further. He said he was still discussing the matter with his attorney.

“It’s very distressing news,” said Brooksville Mayor Lara Bradburn. “Rogers’ has been one of the greatest businesses our community has ever known.”

The business is famous for its vast inventory of Christmas ornaments and collectibles. It ran into financial difficulty not long after its original owner, Margaret Ghiotto Rogers, sold it to Donna Jones in January 2006.

Jones filed for bankruptcy and Rodriguez, who was the general manager for more than three decades, took over the business in 2008 and sought to buy the property from Rogers’ relatives.

George Weiland Rogers, of Brooksville, remains principle owner.

“Of course I’d hate to see it close, yes,” he said when contacted over the phone Friday. “Am I surprised? No.”

Rogers said the store closed because the insurance policy on the property was canceled due to lack of payments. Rogers said the business also was having difficulty paying the power company.

A spokeswoman with Progress Energy could not discuss whether the company had turned off the power. Such matters are confidential, she said.

The business has been closed since Thursday afternoon, Rogers said.

Rodriguez is still telling friends and neighbors he plans to reopen soon.

“We certainly hope he can do that,” said Tricia Bechtelheimer, who owns a shop across the street. “He seems to have plans to hopefully be reopened by next week. He wants to get his financial situation worked out.”

It wasn’t the first time Rogers’ Christmas House, located at 103 S. Saxon Ave. in downtown Brooksville, was forced to shut its doors.

When Jones ran the business, she delegated many of the day-to-day affairs to her sister and her husband. In early 2007, while Jones was hospitalized, the couple reviewed the finances and closed the store.

An irate Jones fired her sister and reopened the business. She filed for bankruptcy less than a year later.

Rumors of the store’s closing have since dogged the Christmas-themed store. Rodriguez told Hernando Today earlier this year it was an ongoing challenge to get banks to grant him a loan or to find investors.

He continued to put on a brave face and assure customers and suppliers that he was going to purchase the property and the business would be solvent again.

“I don’t know what his intent is right now,” said Rogers. “He owns the inventory and I’m sure he wants to get rid of it somehow.”

In December, Rodriguez signed an agreement giving 49 percent of ownership of the business to Matthew Senge, who also had plans to purchase the property.

Senge was arrested Jan. 27 on an outstanding warrant out of Alabama, where he failed to appear for court for a theft by deception charge, authorities said.

Rogers said he and his family did not want to take over the business after Jones foreclosed on it. They thought they had found a worthy businesswoman to run it, but after she failed, it seemed too far gone for them to resuscitate it.

“I for one did not want to take all of that on at that point,” Rogers said. “We would have been starting pretty much from zero.”

Reporter Tony Holt can be reached at 352-544-5283 or

Rollerland is on the fast track

You’ve probably seen the “very-70s” road sign in front of Rainbow Rollerland on West Jefferson Street. This Brooksville icon has survived since the mid-1970s and, according to owners Leonard and Colleen DiGiovanni, things are looking up once again.

“Last year was really tough,” admitted Leonard. “But come January first, things started to turn around. We see business coming back.”

Roller skating has been an American pastime since the first rink opened in Rhode Island in 1863.

Present-day enthusiasts strap on skates for recreation, competitive sports and transportation. The two basic skate types are “quads” (two wheels in front, two in back) or “inline” (two-to-five wheels in a single line).

At Rainbow Rollerland, young beginners mainly use quads, which the DiGiovannis modify so the wheels don’t turn too fast. Most youngsters and teens prefer inlines while many parents, according to Leonard, “Like to knock the mold off their old Riddell speed skates and have some fun.”

He added the rink plays “all kinds of music” and takes requests via request sheets.

He said they keep prices reasonable and find things so far have “worked out no matter what.”

The DiGiovannis purchased the rink in 1999.

Colleen manages the daily activities, Leonard maintains the property and daughter Jennifer Goff is coach and resident DJ. Rainbow Rollerland is the only rink in Hernando County.

Colleen and Leonard said the rink is a place where families can have good clean fun for a small amount of money.

“You’ve got to use your imagination today in Hernando County,” said Leonard. “There’s a lot of unemployment, money is tight and families need to find outlets for entertainment at low cost.”

Sundays after 5:30 p.m. admission is only $1, and nonskating parents get in free. Sunday is the only night they charge $1 for renting skates. All other times rental is free. For those in the know, their rentals are called “brownies.” (Yes, they’re all brown.)

The DiGiovannis keep careful watch over the crowd and don’t allow “hanky-panky.” If you start trouble, you’re out.

They want their rink to be a place where parents can interact with children and where everyone has fun.

“We get people from age 2 to those in their 80s,” said Leonard.

The rink offers birthday party packages and hosts schools and other groups who organize skate nights.

For birthday parties, an $8 or $9 fee per guest (depending on the day and time) includes skating, games, reserved seating, house skates, pizza, drink, ice cream, snow cones, balloons, setup, a host to serve and cleanup, and the birthday child gets his or her name on the outside marquee, a T-shirt or glow necklace and a free pass. Parties must include at least six children and all transactions are cash only.

In addition to recreational skating, the rink is home to a speed-skating team coached by Goff. The Team is USARS (USA Roller Sports) sanctioned and participates in all sanctioned meets in Florida and surrounding areas.

Rollerland speed skaters range in age from 4 to mid-20s. They practice for two hours, three days a week.

Goff and her husband Shane have both competed in speed skating championships. Their two children, Thomas, 13, and Joshua, 14, are also members of the team.

Leonard added, “We also get a lot of world-class skaters in here to practice. In the past two months we’ve had skaters from Sweden, China, Yugoslavia, Columbia and France.”

Goff also team-coaches with world-renowned speed skating coach Renee Hildebrand. Hildebrand is the coach of Team Florida, based in Tampa.

In the entrance a display case includes a sampling of trophies and nostalgic skating memorabilia, some donated by customers.

Inside, the obvious color theme is red, yellow and blue. The yellow walls have the same red and blue swirls (ending in a giant skate, of course) that are on their road sign. The colors reflect off the highly-polished rink.

The snack bar/party area has red, yellow and blue stools and benches. More red benches stand back-to-back in front of the skate rental counter. Blue benches face the pool tables and air hockey game.

Bright red lockers let you store valuables while practicing your skating artistry or reliving your disco days.

Streamers and colored laser lights accent the music, and there’s that thing no rink should be without, the giant disco ball.

The pro shop carries the latest skates, outfits, accessories and gifts. It is reminiscent of earlier days: It’s lit with black lights for that glow-in-the-dark shopping experience.

The long DJ booth window offers a commanding view of the action while discs spin, keeping skaters’ adrenaline pumping and entertaining game players, partygoers and spectators.

Rainbow Rollerland is open Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday plus other times by reservation. Call for specific times and prices.

Biz at a glance:

Name: Rainbow Rollerland

Location: 1125 W. Jefferson St., Brooksville

Telephone: 352-796-0040



Hours: :Tuesday: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Thursday: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. by reservation (for private parties/admission $3)
Friday: 7 to 11 p.m. usually (admission $6); occasionally they have all-night skates (7 p.m. to 7 a.m. – admission $15)
Saturday: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (admission $3.50); 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. (admission $3.50); 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. (admission $6)
Sunday: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. (admission $3.50); 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. (after 5:30 p.m. $1 admission)

MetLife Bank plans reverse mortgage seminar

MetLife Bank. N.A. announced that it will conduct a free Reverse Mortgage seminar on Thursday, June 11th. at 10 am and again at 2 p.m. at the Spring Hill IHOP, which is located at 3636 Commerical Way. Springhill, FL.

Reverse mortgages can be a useful financial tool for people aged 62 and older looking to remain in their house through retirement. Interested parties and family members are encouraged to attend the informal event, which will be conducted by local MetLife Bank Reverse Mortgage representatives: Jeni Barrett. Chris Bruser & Bill Mantooth.

The seminar is designed to inform those who are considering whether or not a Reverse Mortgage is a good fit for their retirement needs and wants. Reverse mortgages can enable many Americans to live comfortably in their homes during their retirement years. Topics will include the benefits of reverse mortgages, what the requirements are, and the associated costs. Private individual and family consultations will be available.

For additional information, about the event or reverse mortgages. contact Jeni Barrett at 813-507-4477 or Bill Mantooth at 727-687-9716.

Green World Path Seeks Local Exposure

Green World Path has been drawing some attention.

From Dunedin to Dubai, the company is offering organic farming products and consultations.

Nationally and internationally, it has continued to grow.

It’s making a local mark, too.

“This time of year, we’re really rolling,” said Dori Bon, the company’s marketing coordinator. “We ship out everyday … We have classes. We help outreach groups, humanitarian groups.”

Bon gave a tour of the company’s warehouse last month. The aroma of fish oils still filled the air. There also was the familiar sight of the giant fermentation tanks, mixing the organic gardening chemicals used to treat everything from a residential garden to a 300-acre golf course.

It emphasizes hydroponic growing, which is ideal for those in urban areas who would like to grow their own vegetables organically. Someone with a small yard in Spring Hill could conceivably plant beans, peppers and tomatoes within arm’s reach of his or her bedroom window.

“This will feed a family of four,” said CEO Ray Nielson as he walked through the maze of hydroponic plants. “You’ll never have to buy your produce at a grocery store.”

Green World Path gets regular visits from local landscapers and lawn spray companies. More people are learning about organic alternatives to fertilizing their lawns, so there is obvious demand, Nielson said.

“We get a new landscaper come in here every three days or so,” he said. “They’re coming at us big time.”

Bon recently moved to Hernando County from Sanibel Island. The job at Green World Path appealed to her because she had seen up close how overpopulation, quick development and a liberal use of conventional fertilizer could pollute the groundwater and environment.

Moving to the Weeki Wachee area was like “a breath of fresh air,” she said.

She has seen a bear in her yard. She also has seen a coyote. She grows vegetables and has free-roaming chickens on her property, she said.

J.B. Williams is a chemist at Green World Path.

During a visit last month, he acted more like a history teacher.

He described how up until 70 years ago, the American farmer almost always used organic methods to grow crops. After World War II and after ammonium nitrate – a chemical compound used in gunpowder – was no longer needed in large supplies by the military, it became an active ingredient in fertilizer, Williams said.

“American farming and worldwide farming really got away from organic,” he said. “People have really taken that to heart. Now there’s a realization that going organic and going green is imperative.”

Williams didn’t stop.

He compared the difference between someone growing a tomato garden today versus a decade ago.

“Ten years ago, someone would have thrown all the Miracle Grow they could at it,” he joked. “Plants are like a slave … no, they’re like a junkie to fertilizer. We’re giving them back the materials they need to survive. If you build better soil, you build better plants.”

Nielson said Green World Path sales have tripled in the last year and he predicts similar growth in 2009 in spite of the economy.

He thinks a focus on local markets, offering weekly classes and its endeavors with the local chamber has played a part.

“We’re all about Hernando County first,” Nielson said.

Reporter Tony Holt can be reached at 352-544-5283 or

Biz at a glance:

Name of biz – Green World Path

Founder – Ray Nielson

Where it is – 1665 Donto Way, Brooksville

What it is – Organic farming consulting company

Get in touch – 352-799-0200

On the Web –

Blue Lightning Is Fast As Lightning

Marc Taglienti vacuumed cars while an undergraduate.

There was a lot of sweat and grit involved.

“It’s not easy work,” he said. “It’s hard.”

While studying at the University of Central Florida he knew he wanted to run a business. He turned to what he knew. He wasn’t afraid of hard work.

Taglienti, 33, owns and manages Blue Lightning Car Wash. He has two locations – one in Spring Hill and another in Hudson.

Before putting in his own money for a car wash, he moved up the latter at a large chain. He was a regional trainer, general manager and assisted investors with their openings.

Nowadays, he offers Suncoast-area motorists inexpensive washes and free, unlimited vacuuming.

He employs eight people. He oversees all the drums, hoses and brushes and makes certain they are working properly. A computer controls 72 machine functions.

It doesn’t take much to get Taglienti talking about his business. He is proud of it and isn’t afraid to show it. He jumped right into explaining the step-by-step washing system in full detail.

It is more than merely a sales pitch. He is proud of his business. He believes he provides quality and services not found at a garden-variety self-serve wash, let alone a gas station.

“For the top washes, you should do it about once per month,” said Taglienti, the proud owner of a sparkling Infiniti M35, which he washed twice Friday. “When the summer comes around and you get all those bugs, you need to get them in here quickly.”

Taglienti regularly sees a Rolls-Royce Phantom roll onto his lot, not to mention several Corvettes, Mercedes Benzes and Lexuses.

The washes last three minutes, which provides the owner with an irresistible gimmick – a three-minute wash for $3.

He also offers higher-end washes, which range from $5 to $12. The latter is an Ultimate Express wash, which includes UV fade protection, wheel cleaner, weather-shield spray wax and of course, a free vacuum.

Rain-X also can be added to any wash for an additional $3.

There is a touch screen, which is accompanied by an audio response that provides easy-to-follow instructions.

The driver selects which wash he or she wants and can pay with cash or a credit or debit card.

There are three lanes at the touch screen, but only one gate will open at a time.

Two attendants guide the vehicle onto the washing track. They also point to a large sign that reminds drivers to put the car in neutral, take their foot off the brake and keep their hands off the steering wheel.

The rest of the wash is predictable – the sounds of whirring brushes and micro fibers spinning against the front, back, sides and top of the car. Brushes clean the tires and rims and the underbody also is cleaned.

The high-pressure system “hits all the fine grooves of the car,” Taglienti said.

At the end of the wash is a set of dryers that dispenses winds of up to 180 miles per hour.

The controls are programmed for energy efficiency. Most of the water is recycled and a reverse osmosis machine ensures there will be no spots on the vehicle, Taglienti said.

Even the water is cleaned before it goes into the sewer.

He uses soft cloth brushes and no harsh chemicals. He demonstrated by sticking his hand and forearm into a drum of soap.

“See? It’s very delicate,” he said.

The sensors turn on and off so that there is no waste of water while the car is going through the wash.

There are no extra charges for sport utility vehicles, vans or pickup trucks.

An early bird special is offered from 8 to 9 a.m. every day. Customers can wash their cars for $2 during that hour.

Biz at a glance:

Name of biz – Blue Lightning Car Wash

Owner – Marc Taglienti

What it is – Hands-free car wash

Where it is – 4330 Commercial Way, Spring Hill

Hours of operation – 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days per week

Get in touch – 727-868-7130

On the Web –

Reporter Tony Holt can be reached at 352-544-5283 or