Lithia Pinecrest Landmark Corner Sold To Make Room For New Wawa Store

By Tamas Mondovics

Bloomingdale area residents will soon see a change of scenery in the heart of their community, thanks to the sale of several properties affecting a number of businesses on the NW corner of Bloomingdale Ave. and Lithia Pinecrest Rd. in Valrico.

Herb and Maria Gomes, owners of Consign DeZigns, located at 3322 Lithia Pinecrest Rd. in Valrico, have announced the closing of their consignment home furnishing store last month due to the sale of their one-acre property, which gave countless number of businesses the opportunity to take advantage of the prime locale for the past six decades.

But time catches up with everyone, and after three months of seemingly seamless negotiations, the deal is said to make room for the Pennsylvania-based, Wawa Inc., a chain of convenience stores and gas stations located along the East Coast of the United States, which has recently began making its way into the Florida market.

“This is a bittersweet goodbye for us,” said Maria, as she looked back at the property and the building’s history that served as the family home that her father, Elvin Hansen, first purchased for $450 in 1953.

“He built a 100 sq. ft. store with a sandwich window and three fuel pumps out front,” Maria said.  “He named it Bloomingdale Service Center, with nothing but fields and cow pasture all around.”

The station eventually grew into a general store that offered animal feed, hardware, and groceries and with the installation of a grease rack next to the store, a car repair shop.

Elvin, now 85, married Maxine Driggers in 1955, and built a small house in the back of the property that Maria, along with her sister Kathy and brother Dennis, lived as well as grew up in, while helping their dad working in the store.

Over the years, the building kept going through some changes, sharing space with dozens of businesses that enjoyed one of the best locations in the ever-changing community under Maria’s care, who in May of 1997, with the help of her husband, opened and successfully operated their now soon-to-be missed furniture consignment store.

“The building was older and didn’t have the look of a traditional strip center,” Maria said, but added that although a bit different, it was actually quite unique, from the stone work on the front to the barn-style roof line, with no door for each entrance, similar to what her dad built brick-by-brick.

Looking back at what the now much-coveted property and building means to the community, as well as her dad’s history and influence, Maria mentioned that as a child of the Great Depression, her dad saw value in everything as he continued to build on the property using various means of income which included raising cattle, farming, and even teaching ballroom dancing.

Elvin had contacts that helped in his desire to build, and was known in the community as an industrious man who would pick up concrete blocks left over from jobs from a company called Martin Concrete. The patchwork parking lot was a result of leftover concrete that would be delivered to Elvin that would have been disposed of.  He always had a form built with the wire on the bottom ready to go.

Through the years, Elvin has built a little at a time as he would get the materials and or money to do so.  His son, Dennis, helped him build most of the complex, including a two-story house with a courtyard and pool that the family moved into when Maria was born.

Elvin and his daughter now have about a month to say their final farewell to a lifetime of history connected to their home and business as it will open the way to one last change, which will now only be preserved in some photographs and memories.

“It is going to be sad when this all goes away; our family has seen many changes to this area, especially my Dad, since he has owned this property for more than half a century,” Maria said. “We have many memories wrapped up in these concrete walls and I think we will all have an empty feeling inside when it is no longer standing.”

For more information about Consign DeZigns before it closes, please call the store at 685-5053.