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SENNETT | For Nicole Sharpsteen, driving down to the sea-blue shack on Grant Avenue has become typical.

If it was 2011, she would have found herself at Custard's Last Stand, perhaps for a sundae. Even further back, the hut at the Auburn Movieplex plaza in Sennett would be serving ice cream and coffee as Drive-Thru Joe.

But the shack — now called Nana's Cafe — has been under new management for much of 2015. With a menu that includes coffee and ice cream, owner Erica Cesario likens Nana's to a pseudo-hybrid between the shack's past identities.

Cesario has found a regular in Sharpsteen, who rolled up to Nana's drive-thru for a coffee Tuesday. But Cesario said she has also seen a number of new faces following the sudden closure of Auburn's Tim Hortons restaurant last week.

"This place is fun. I've been coming all summer," Sharpsteen said. "She's super sweet and she knows my ice cream order and my coffee order."

For Cesario, opening Nana's Cafe marked a much sharper transition than just switching coffee shops.

The 38-year-old dove into her first small business after years in management for a home health care agency. Drained by desk work, Cesario said she was burnt out by the corporate routine.

Looking for another line of work, plans were eventually formed for the small shack at 360 Grant Ave. in Sennett. Cesario bought the building in March and opened a month later.

Human resources, payroll and any other past duties quickly gave way to "food fast, not fast food," she said, with burgers, paninis, breakfast items and more made to order.

Cesario said she never expected to find herself owning a small business at this point in her life. It's been an experience she has been able to share with her husband and her children, 8-year-old Joey and 11-year-old Tommy.

The two boys, she said, are often helping her with customer care —  taking orders while she fills them and cashing out folks, for example — before and after school while her husband helps when he can around his job.

"It's been an experience for me and my family. The boys have a great time here," she said "People are always on the lookout for them, and that just kind of makes it fun."

Nana's Cafe enters the winter season with a menu prepped for the occasion, Cesario said.

Hot drinks extend beyond standard and flavored coffee to cocoa, lattes and tea. For those who like cold in the cold, Nana's also offers iced coffee, chilled drinks and ice cream (with doggie sundaes) year-round. Cesario said she will also be serving special seasonal-flavored ice cream and coffee, as well.

Cesario said the goal was to encapsulate the business' options with the broad-stroke term "cafe." The brand itself, she said, is one she hopes could grow out of the shack someday and toward a larger venture.

"Working for yourself is definitely a challenge, and you know that going in," she said. "But it's very rewarding at the same time."

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Staff writer Greg Mason can be reached at (315) 282-2239 or greg.mason@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @CitizenMason.

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