Owner of Divicious Deli and Coffee Shop in downtown Lakeland for 8+ years | Opening bodega Market downtown later this year
I t’s no secret Johansi Santana makes delectable food, evidenced by the popularity of Divicious Deli and Coffee Shop in downtown Lakeland, but the origin of the name of the New York style deli might be a secret to many Lakelanders.
Nerolie, Johansi and Amaury’s youngest daughter, is glad to share the inside scoop on the name of the family business that strives to make its customers feel like extended family.
When she was about 12 years old her mom made a batch of cookies. “My mom gave me a cookie and I said, ‘Oh mom, it’s divicious!” recalls Nerolie, who is scheduled to graduate from University of Central Florida this fall. “She then looks at me and says, ‘What’s that?’ I then say, ‘Mom, divine and delicious, duh!’”
Within a few years Divicious opened, and Nerolie said it felt like a “Grammy award winning” moment seeing the name come to life.
That passion and excitement is what has helped the family establish themselves as an integral fabric of the Lakeland community over the past eight years.
“It’s exciting to see when everyone comes…and whatever is going on in their life, it is my mission to try to be that extra support just for happiness, just to take a little bit of a load off while providing things that they like,” Johansi says.
The family has its roots in St. Thomas and New York, but Johansi’s contagious smile comes alive when you ask her what it means to be a Lakelander, and how locals have supported her business. She has built such a strong connection with clientele that it gave her confidence to open bodega Market, a soon-to-open 1,500 square foot convenience store in the space next to Divicious.
When asked how she describes a Lakelander, she says they have roots from all over the world but generally share a love for local businesses, as well as show a deep spirit of generosity.
“Unfortunately we have the homeless around here (in Munn Park across from her business)…but [Lakelanders] care for them,” she says. “You know, a lot of my clients come and buy them a sandwich or a drink, and that says a lot about a big city versus Lakeland.”