City forces coffee shop to take down inflatable mascot


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Who knew an inflatable advertising figure would cause so much uproar in Norfolk? A coffee shop put up the waving figure to get people to come on in, then the city knocked the wind out of it.

Inside The Coffee Tree, there’s excitement served in each cup of coffee for Gabriel Rapisardi.

“Everybody is like, ‘Thank God, you’re here. It’s great for the area, please don’t leave,’” Rapisardi said while pouring a cup of espresso with a smile on his face.

In June, he opened The Coffee Tree in the heart of Park Place. It’s an area Gabriel knows has seen better days. After all, he grew up there.

“Actually being in the community, you know trying to change it from within is a big deal,” he said. “For me, it’s awesome.”

If you look down Colonial Avenue, it’s hard to see the open coffee shop. That’s where Mr. Wiggles came about.

“People know that we’re open when Mr. Wiggles is out,” he said of the six foot tall yellow inflatable tube man. “They know where we are because of Mr. Wiggles. That’s kind of our open sign.”

While Gabriel serves up java, he hoped Mr. Wiggles would serve up hope for Park Place.

“He had a big smile on his face so I thought he might make other people feel happy.”

Apparently, it didn’t make the City of Norfolk happy. Last week, the city told Gabriel Mr. Wiggles had to come down.

A city spokesperson told 10 On Your Side:

We love the energy and enthusiasm Mr. Wiggles brought to the Coffee Tree. Unfortunately, he creates a safety issue which is why the zoning ordinance prohibits all signs that move, undulate, flutter, swing, rotate, etc. throughout in the city.”

It’s a response Gabriel said he doesn’t understand.

“Why are they bothering me with Mr. Wiggles? Aren’t there more safety concerns than Mr. Wiggles?” he asked.

In the meantime, The Coffee Tree moved Mr. Wiggles to the second floor to wave from the roof.