Anita grew up in Naples, N.Y., the daughter of a dairy farmer and a homemaker. She spent her days riding horses, in the field and picking blueberries.
“I spent so much time picking berries in the summer heat,” she said. “To this day I won’t eat a blueberry. I just can’t do it.”
She learned many things living on a working farm.
“I have five siblings. Working together, doing the hard work of a farm, you learn to be a team player,” she said.
Anita has three brothers and two sisters. One sister, in fact, is her twin.
After she graduated from high school, Anita married and became a stay-at-home mother and homemaker.
“Once my kids were a little older, I started working a bit outside the home,” she said.
After her marriage ended, she continued to work, learning the ropes as an office administrator.
That is how she met Dave, her husband. She was working as the office manager of the custom building company that he started in New York after he left the Marine Corps. The company specialized in building large homes in rural settings. He started it so that he could work outdoors, instead of in an office.
“The company was like most anything else outside up north,” said Anita. “It was wonderful in the summer and horribly cold in the winter.”
One thing led to another, and the two started dating.
“It’s the classic office story,” she laughed. “The boss married the secretary. For our first date, he took me out to dinner. It went from there.”
By the time Anita met Dave, her oldest two children were out of the house and had families of their own.
During the summer, she, Dave and the younger children would take trips to the Adirondacks.
“It wasn’t anything exciting,” she laughed. “It was a typical family vacation. We would load up in the travel trailer and go camping. The kids would play with the other children at the campground, then at nightwe would sit around the fire and make s’mores. We had a lot of family time on the trips.”
Anita and Dave were introduced to Florida through her parents, who lived on Pine Island for 17 years after they retired from the dairy business. Anita, Dave and their children came down to visit family, and ended up falling in love with the state.
“We brought the kids with us,” said Anita. “As they got older we began to take longer vacations and explore more of Florida.”
All of the kids could quickly add up. Between the two of them, the Casses have six children and five grandchildren.
“The oldest is David Scott,” Anita began. “He’s the owner of a company in Charlotte, N.C. He and his wife Rose have two children, Ryan and Keena. The next oldest is Steve. He is a missionary in Mexico with his wife, Kenya. Then there is Michael, who is going to school for viniculture, learning about grapes and winemaking. He’s married to a lovely woman named Michele.”
Anita took a deep breath. She had reached the halfway point.
“Our son Darien is a union iron worker superintendent,” she continued. “He and his wife Lauren have two children, Kaylee and Cassidy. Our daughter, Lindsay, is a first grade teacher. She and her husband
Josh just had a baby three weeks ago. They named her Ava Rose. Our son Travis is a marketing media manager for a real estate company out in San Diego, Calif.”
The Casses and their children started their trips around Florida by visiting the more typical tourist destinations like Disney World. They gradually worked their way back south to the home base of her parent’s house in Charlotte Harbor.
“We took a slightly longer vacation one year and rented a house on Little Gasparilla Island,” explained Anita. “Some of the kids were getting into their late teens, and before too long they could start saying no to the big family trips.”
Little Gasparilla Island was perfect.
“There was no way for them to escape spending time with the rest of the family while we were there,” she laughed. “It was wonderful.”
Over the years, the Casses fell in love with Charlotte Harbor. In 2005, when the children were all grown and they were ready to escape the cold winters of New York, they built a home in Rotonda. For a while,
Anita worked as an administrative assistant at a local business.
Though Dave had retired and was looking forward to time spent fishing, hunting and enjoying the outdoors, he soon became bored.
“We went and bought a brand-new boat so that he could go fishing,” said Anita. “We put it in the water maybe five times. Between the work of getting it into the water, then taking it out, washing it down and then storing it, it took longer to take care of the thing than we actually spent on it.”
Eventually, the couple decided like so many others that retirement was not for them. It was time to take their skills and start their own project.
They had visited Gasparilla Island several times over the years, and thought that it would be the perfect place to own their own business.
“The people here are so friendly,” she said. “They always have a smile and a nice word. And as you come across the bridge and see the view, you know why. You start to smile when you see that view, too. You can’t help it.”
This time, it was Anita who had the connection to get into business. Her brother owned two shops, part of a franchise of specialty dog stores.
“We have two dogs,” said Anita. “One is a chocolate lab named Lexie and the other is an English setter named Polly. We have always owned dogs and our lives revolve around them, so the business was a perfect match. We also realized that people out here are dedicated to their pets. It was just so natural.”
And so, Woof Gang Bakery was born. The shop opened in January of 2012.
“My brother was one of the first to be involved in the company, so when we made the decision to come out of retirement, we decided to become a member of the Woof Gang family. We are the 27th shop in the entire country,” Anita explained.
Anita is the public face of the business, while Dave works behind the scenes.
“He calls himself my gofer,” laughed Anita. “Errands, stocking, whatever needs to be done, he is there. I think he is having more fun than he did on that boat.”
Anita spends her days in the shop, greeting customers on two legs and four.
“You get to know people pretty well out here,” said Anita. “People will stop to talk, or come in for a treat for their pet. Customers are very loyal, and many of them become friends.”
She also gets to meet plenty of passersby.
“I can always tell when someone is going to stop in,” she smiled. “They peek in the window, then they notice the chandelier over the treat table. A lot of times, they will just poke their head in long enough to take a picture, but other times they come in and we get to tell each other stories about our pets.”
Anita may not be willing to eat blueberries, but they are used in the doggie spa that is a part of the store. Every dog that comes in to be pampered is given a blueberry facial by Michelle, the groomer.
“We advertised for a dog groomer, and we were lucky enough that Michelle answered our ad,” said Anita. “She joined us in late February of this year. We are so glad to have her. She really loves working with the dogs. Everything from putting a bow on their heads to dremeling and painting their nails. Michelle is even willing to trim cat’s claws - with the help of the owners, of course.”
Anita plans to keep the store open for the entire summer, so stop by and say hi when you are downtown. And if you have four-legged friends, bring them with you. Anita will be glad to meet them.
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