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He Shoots! He Scores!
Should Charles Barkley retire at the end of the season -- as he has hinted that he might -- how is the basketball star going to fill his time? Barkley has said that he might seek public office. But if, for any reason, that doesn't work out, I have a suggestion for him: Follow the example of another former Rocket, Eric "Sleepy" Floyd.

Last October, Floyd and his Cuban-born wife, Gracie, opened Caffe Fresco ("a coffeehouse with a fresh twist") in Sugar Land, and the place is doing well -- full of power lunchers, moms with kids, even bridal showers.

Why the second "f" in "caffe"?
"That's the way they spell it in Italy," Gracie said. "We wanted to create something very elegant and very European." But at the same time, the menu reflects Gracie's roots. Born in Cuba and raised in New Orleans, she laughs, "I'm a confused child." That confusion expresses itself as fusion cuisine: For instance, a sandwich on Italian focaccia bread might be accompanied by a Cuban-inspired bean salad.

If Sleepy Floyd turns out to be as good a restaurateur as he was a basketball player, expect a number of Caffe Frescos. In a career spanning a remarkable 13 years, he scored over 10,000 points -- one of just a handful of players in the National Basketball Association ever to do so. He left the Rockets at the end of the '93'94 season and finished his career a year later with the New Jersey Nets.

The former Rocket says playing basketball was good training for the restaurant business. "They're both a challenge," he said. "I compete every day just as I did on the court. There's always some new obstacle to overcome." Gracie says he's in Caffe Fresco all the time: "People are surprised."

This isn't his first time to be involved with restaurants. Some years ago, he and several partners owned a Wendy's franchise on the East Coast.

Sugar Land has become something of a mecca for sports stars, current and former. In addition to Floyd, several serving Rockets live there; Warren Moon lives there; and Tara Lipinski is supposed to live there. What's the attraction? "It's a haven," Floyd said. "It's a change to get back to reality."

Floyd was never sleepy, by the way. He earned his nickname -- in the fourth grade -- not because he's narcoleptic, but because he has hooded eyelids.

He isn't sure that running a restaurant would appeal to Charles Barkley. "It's a lots of hours and a lot of details," he said. "I think he'd be happier playing golf."

Caffe Fresco, 2623 Town Center Boulevard (near U.S. 59 and Highway 6), Sugar Land, (281) 491-7800.

 
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