NORFOLK, Va. - Park Place neighborhood has a reputation of being plagued by violence and that's exactly why one woman decided it was the perfect place to open her business.
Making whole fruit smoothies and serving coffee is Tomilyn Rapisardi's lifelong passion. Even if she's doing it in a neighborhood with challenges.
"We actually think this is the perfect location," said Rapisardi. Rapisardi and her husband transformed a historical building into a coffee cafe serving hand-pressed coffee, whole fruit smoothies, Italian sodas and gelato.
The cafe opened in June in Park Place. A neighborhood many might have avoided because of its reputation for violence.
“We are aware, but we really do just have faith in Park Place and we know it's a great place and we know there's great people in here. We are not deterred by anything," said Rapisardi.
Even by scenes just a few days before News 3 interviewed Rapisardi. Officers, armed with rifles, searched for a suspect. Earlier in 2016, multiple shootings took place in the neighborhood.
But none of that matters to Rapisardi, who enjoys her work and her customers, whether they're regulars of coming in for the first time.
“We can bond with them. They walk in and they know what they want and we know what they want. We’ve had people call up and say 'hey please have my drink ready for me.'”
Historically, there's never been a coffee shop in the area. That spirit of overcoming obstacles and serving the community is what the local business association is looking for.
"I think it's an asset to the community. There's a lot of buzz about it," said Vernon Freed, who is the President of the Park Place Business Association.
Blend that up with offering something for everyone, Rapisardi said she and her business aren't leaving. She hopes this coffee cafe will revitalize the area and change its reputation.
“There’s so many great people in this neighborhood. We love everybody and we hope to be here for a really long time,” said Rapisardi.
The Coffee Tree's roots are firmly planted in Park Place and every day, its owner is proud to bring a latte energy to the neighborhood.