In this installment of Meet the Merchant, we speak to Dmitry Petrov of Oksa Cakes in Flagler Beach, Florida. Dmitry shares his parents’ story—how they immigrated from Ukraine and opened a cafe-bistro in Florida, infusing love into everything they do (and getting some help from Clover).
Clover: We understand that your parents run Oksa and you help them with some of the marketing, as you are more comfortable in English than they are. Can you tell us a bit about their story and what led your parents to start Oksa?Dmitry Petrov: My parents immigrated to the U.S. from Kiev, Ukraine in 2017 and settled in Florida. My mom has some traditional French patisserie training, and she had a small business in Ukraine baking cakes to-order. She hadn’t worked extensively in the restaurant industry, but she had enough knowledge to start Oksa Cakes when they moved.
My mom’s style is “all-natural” cakes, meaning no fondant or any of that stuff. Her cakes still look beautiful, and they taste delicious. Taste is a really big principle for her. It’s not just about presenting something that looks good, it’s about quality and taste.
On the side, Oksa Cakes is also a bistro that serves Ukrainian-style food. That’s something my mom also works on today, but it was really my dad’s vision when they first opened. He doesn’t have formal culinary training, but he’s an exceptional chef. We all love his cooking! He introduced the menu, which covers breakfast and lunch and sometimes early dinner. The menu really varies.
Clover: How has the community responded to Oksa Cakes?Petrov: Oksa has become an absolute staple of the community, and I don’t just say that because they’re my parents! Everyone knows Oksa in the town—they get recognized. It’s gotten to the point where people travel to the cafe not just for the sweets but for the food as well. They have customers who drive down from Orlando, which is a two-hour drive, just to eat there. It is a really tiny spot. They only have a few tables. It’s been incredible to see how they’ve been so embraced by the community.
Apart from the amazing food, I think people come for the company. My parents are incredibly sociable and friendly people. They just strike up conversations with everyone, even though the language is a barrier. My mom gets stressed when she’s on the phone trying to speak English, but in person, they’ve been really crushing it. They picked up the language so quickly and make friends with everyone.
What’s also been cool to see is their customer base is very diverse and varied. There is a large Ukrainian diaspora community in nearby Palm Coast, but Oksa’s customers are from all over. I think that my parents are so beloved by this small market is what has really helped Oksa grow.
Clover: How did your parents get started with Clover?Petrov: They started with Clover right off the bat. They were introduced to Clover through their banking partner. They asked for my advice at the time, and Clover seemed pretty robust to me.
One of the big, big things my parents like about Clover is Clover Capital. Clover Capital gives you an advance based on your sales. You can then repay the advance directly from credit card sales—payments are deducted daily from your MasterCard and Visa credit card sales deposits. It’s been a great resource for them to tap into and pay back at a reasonable pace.
My dad also started a side business called Serge’s Salumeria. He makes his own sausage: chorizo, salami, all kinds of stuff. He smokes it, dry ages it, all the good stuff. Clover allows him to take his sausages to farmer’s markets. It’s been great to have a point-of-sale that travels. They use Clover Flex for delivery sometimes, too.
Clover: In witnessing your parent’s experience opening and running a business, what advice would you have for other business owners?Petrov: There’s no doubt that opening and running a business has been challenging for my parents. But, what I’ve seen really drive my parents’ business from day one is their passion. Hard work really does translate. My parents have always had the attitude that “the most important ingredient when you cook is love.” They really mean that. They put their soul into everything they do.
For example, when you come visit Oksa and order a schnitzel, they’ll make it fresh. You will hear them in the kitchen flattening out the meat—everything’s done from scratch. Sometimes people have to wait a little bit for their food, but everyone’s happy to wait because it’s an experience in itself that everything’s super fresh.
If you can figure out how to instill that love and passion and have it transform or be present in your product, I think that’s the best investment you can make in your business.
Read more of our Meet the Merchant stories for real-life stories of small businesses in action all over the country. Want to be featured in this series? Fill out our questionnaire, and if we can include you in a future interview cycle, we’ll send you an invitation!
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