Sugar Rush: Why a Canadian restaurant owner closed up shop and headed to Florida during pandemic

Hal Roback's cotton candy business is booming
Fluffy's Cotton Candy Creations
Posted at 4:30 AM, Mar 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-30 16:38:09-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Hal Roback owned and operated a successful all-you-can-eat Italian buffet in Ontario for 25 years.

Then COVID-19 hit, forcing him to close. His next move might surprise you.

Roback now owns and operates Fluffy's Cotton Candy Creations.

In November, he opened his first store in Clearwater at Countryside Mall. Earlier this month, he launched at a kiosk inside the Brandom Mall.

"I always had this in the back of my mind, and I thought what a perfect time to try, and uh, it's been very well received," Roback said. "We are expanding next month is in Orlando, and we now have eight employees, and we hope to have 15 very soon."

The store makes characters out of cotton candy. For Christmas, they made cotton candy Santa's, and for Easter, they are making cotton candy bunnies and chicks. But, they have a wide assortment of characters to pick from.

"I love seeing the smiles on kids' faces and parents too," Roback said. "Baby Yoda is a big hit."

The day we interviewed Roback, he recently made two new hires.

"It is kind of hard the first few days. It was hard for me to learn how to do it, but I'm getting better," Nicole Kais said.

Kais is a freshman in high school and learned about the job through a friend.

"Yes, it is my first job," Kais said. "I feel so happy I can make my own money get my own things and own money, so I'm very happy about that."

When he opened in November, Roback also brought on a managing partner Zobeida Helms.

Helms said she was a Spanish teacher. But, felt the opportunity with Roback was too good to pass up.

"It's going really well. People are loving it, and we are happy to make them happy," Helms said. "During COVID, I had time to practice all the shapes and get ready for the grand opening."

We watched on a Friday afternoon in early March as customer after customer lined up to get a sweet treat. Roback is optimistic about the future.

"I'm very positive. I think by summer or early fall, things will be back to normal," Roback said.

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