The empty space located at 5403 East Drive in Arbutus that has been vacant for seven months will soon become a cafe.
"The space next door — we seemed to have trouble finding anyone who could make it there," said Ella Kostinsky, who owns the property from 5401-5407 East Drive, including Sorrento of Arbutus, at 5401 East Drive.
Kostinsky has struggled to fill the space, she said. The two most recent occupants were a Rita's Italian Ice store and a chocolate truffle shop. The chocolate shop opened for customers in October of 2013, about six months after moving into the space. But it went out of business, like the others before it, said Kostinsky, seated in a booth next to her son Brandon, 23, who helps her manage Sorrento of Arbutus.
Kostinsky, who resides in Ellicott City, became the owner of Sorrento when her husband, Michael, died in 2008.
"So my son, the business man that he is, said 'What can we do over there? There's got to be something we can do.'," she said. "We started talking about it, he put together a plan and it's pretty much his baby."
Brandon Kostinsky will manage The Sorrento Cafe. A Federal Hill resident, he hopes to some day run the family business that was founded by his grandfather, Leon Kostinsky, in 1965.
"Every customer I talk to says my [father] would be proud [of the new cafe]," he said.
The planned grand opening on Saturday, Jan. 17, was delayed due to equipment being delivered late, he said. The new opening date is scheduled for Jan. 26.
Four new employees, family members of current employees at Sorrento's, have been hired to work at the business, Brandon Kostinsky said.
As an extension of the family business, the new cafe will cater to customers on the go, he said. It will offer to-go items such as subs and sandwiches made next door at Sorrento for customers who have less time, he said.
But mother and son see the new cafe as separate from the long standing pizza and sub operation that celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
"It's just another way to serve our customers — giving them things they can get elsewhere but I know they'll get them here because they trust the Sorrento name," Brandon Kostinsky said.
They will offer coffee drinks, including lattes and cappuccinos as well as freshly baked goods like brownies and cookies, he said.
For those looking for a healthier option to baked goods, the cafe will offer smoothies.
"The smoothie bar is what sets us apart," said Brandon Kostinsky, who graduated from Centennial High School. "You get to choose your own fruit, juice or yogurt."
Both said the Village Junction Bakery Cafe, located nearby at 1332 Sulphur Spring Road, will be their biggest competitor, as the shop is presently the only cafe that serves coffee and pastries in the community.
"They don't do smoothies. They do primarily coffee and baked goods," Ella Kostinsky said.
Deborah SeBour, a real estate broker and owner of Re/Max New Beginnings, said she welcomes the expansion of the family-friendly business.
"I think it's going to tie in nicely with the main street," SeBour said, who recently founded a group that is trying to revitalize the business corridor of Arbutus.
"[Brandon] is a really smart young guy," SeBour said. "To be pushing and growing the business — he's really going to be good."
Brandon has learned the business from the ground up, assembling pizza boxes at the family restaurant when he was 9, Ella Kostinsky said.
"I'm going to miss him here — I've tried to talk him out of doing this. I said, 'I really need you here.' But he really wanted to do this," Ella Kostinsky said. "So I told him I would help him out and support him."
As far as future expansion for the cafe, there are no plans to expand the physical space, but more items will be added to the menu, Brandon Kostinsky said.
"We might eventually offer customized cakes," he said. "We'll see where it goes. Only time will tell."