'Anonymous Angel' helps Cafe Girasole settle in

"The best Christmas gift ever," Cafe Girasole owner Leslie Dupont said of an envelope that mysteriously appeared in her restaurant Dec. 18.

On Tuesday, holding back tears, Dupont explained how on the fourth day of being in her new location in downtown Gardnerville she discovered the envelope with $700 cash inside that had been stuffed under her office door.

She described the astonishment of reading the anonymous letter that lauded her for her hard work and urged her to use the money for a storefront sign.

"We literally ran out of money three days before we opened," Dupont said. "We were praying and hoping to open with a bang, and we got it."

Dupont said she'd put down a deposit for a sign, but had to delay the purchase to cover other expenses. Then the envelope came.

"The whole thing brought me to tears," she said. "I want to say thank-you to my anonymous angel. I feel so blessed. It was an amazing gift, the sign. We probably would have had to wait a couple of months to get it up."

Three days before Christmas, two men from Mac Signs showed up at the restaurant to install a long black sign with curly white font and a yellow sunflower graphic above the store's front windows.

Before the move, Dupont had spent two years in Minden in a much smaller, less visible storefront.

"Last winter was tough. We contemplated closing a few times," Dupont said. "But this goes to show you. Seeing that sign go up is a reality for me - all the hard work has paid off with the customers I see every day now."

Since the eatery opened in the new location along Highway 395, its customer base has been growing steadily, Dupont said.

"We've definitely doubled what we were doing before," she said. "It's not all profit, we have a little bit more overhead, but the traffic has doubled. We've been seeing a lot of elderly people who come in to order a cup of soup and half a sandwich. After New Year's, we're planning on doing Tuesdays as senior discount days."

Dupont said she's still making by hand the food she's known for: Her sandwiches, soups and salads. But she has collaborated with other Gardnerville businesses for some new menu items.

The K2 Pilates sandwich contains turkey, brie, pear and black current chutney. The Yoga Loft is a fire-roasted veggie wrap with feta cheese and roasted red pepper sauce. The Serendipity includes goat cheese, spinach, artichoke, caramelized onions and roasted tomatoes.

"They're my three most popular sandwiches right now. Naming them after the businesses helps us network," Dupont said. "The businesses are sending customers to me and vice versa."

Come the end of February, Dupont is also looking to restart her cooking class.

"We make appetizers, entrees, desserts, and we all sit down like a family and eat and drink wine and talk about food," she said.

As for her anonymous angel, Dupont believes the person is a woman because of the style of handwriting in the note.

"I've asked a couple of people and they played dumb, so I haven't figured it out yet," she said. "Maybe they'll come forth after the article, or maybe I can tempt them with a free sandwich, but that's silly compared to $700."

Dupont said someone is "definitely watching over her."

"I'd like to give them a big hug and just thank them," she said. "It shows you that there's hope."

Cafe Girasole is located at 1483 Highway 395, Suite A. Business hours are 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Call 782-3314 for more information.

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