Hafeena Ali-Martinez is as colorful as the frozen treats and bright yellow walls of her Feena’s dessert shop, an island-inspired oasis in Bronco Square just across from Fayetteville State University. So, naturally, she attracts a lot of students and faculty who could really use a break.
A chance to chill, if you will.
Another thing is for sure: Just about everyone who comes through the doors seems to know the boisterous Feena, who hails from Trinidad. And she remembers her customers.
“How are you?” she says with wide-eyed wonder to a frazzled woman escaping the triple-digit heat for something cold and delicious.
The woman and a growing line of customers can choose from as many as 10 flavors of Turkey Hill ice cream in a cone or cup, with a choice of several toppings. And there are milkshakes, too. But most go for Feena’s signature pride and joy: Frulato.
Feena describes her Frulato as “a dairy-free Gelato” with no preservatives, food coloring or artificial flavors. It’s all plant-based, so, yes, it is vegan. Naturally low in calories, Frulato contains a small amount of cane sugar, Feena says.
Frulato is created using a special process — and a big machine. Feena makes the treat from fresh fruits she buys locally, including from some farmers markets. A half-dozen crisp flavors rotate regularly, but strawberry is a best seller. Among other choices are peach, cantaloupe, mango, banana, watermelon, green apple, piña colada, and pineapple. The selection depends on the season.
Samples are free. Can’t decide on just one? Get a couple of flavors swirled or layered.
Even a small portion, for $3.99, is large. Chances are you won’t spend more than 5 to 7 bucks, including a tip.
Relax at one of the colorful tables or get your treat to go. While hanging out, you’ll notice that the space is two businesses in one. Feena carved out her frozen treats business a few years ago from her University Dollar Store, which opened about 2005. So if you need to grab some balloons, snacks or toiletries, that’s an option here, too.
She also operates a tax-preparation service here.
Feena says it’s only smart to combine multiple businesses within a free-flowing space. She was inspired by her father, who operated a bakery, parts store and ice cream shop in Trinidad.
Part of her mission digs much deeper, though. The Community Wall shows Feena and friends — and her commitment to make life better for others. An Army veteran with 17 years of service, she is married to a veteran and the mother of two, so she has a soft spot for the military and families. As a breast cancer survivor, she encourages anyone facing a similar challenge.
She’s been known to feed the hungry, especially single moms and children in the neighborhood. And her backpack giveaways, in partnership with local businesses, are always eagerly anticipated. The next one begins at noon Aug. 13. Some 2,000 backpacks filled with school supplies will be distributed free at Feena’s and University Dollar Store on a first-come, first-served basis.
“I’m kind of like everyone’s mother, auntie or grandmother,” she muses.
“My customers will come back if they feel loved.”
Feena’s is in Bronco Square at 1047 Murchison Road. The shop is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
For the latest news and flavors, visit Feena’s Facebook page.