By BOB MUDGE

Staff Writer

SOUTH VENICE — Stacy Jones’ newest tattoo is a real lemon.

And a palm tree and a ribbon and an apple.

Jones was getting the ink, designed by Georgia Woods of Burning Lotus Tattoo, to pay off a wager he made with his staff at Applebee’s of Venice, 4329 South Tamiami Trail.

The restaurant was doing a fundraiser for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which raises money for cancer research. If they brought in $3,000, he said, he’d get a tattoo of a lemon.

The team raised $1,185 last year, so $3,000 might have seemed like a lofty goal — perhaps a tattoo-free one. Promising to get a tattoo if they met it, he said, “would inspire my staff and be meaningful.”

It worked.

This year’s total was $3,239 — the most among any of franchisee Doherty Enterprises’ restaurants in Florida or Georgia, Marketing Coordinator Brittany Sweeney said. St. Augustine was a distant second at $2,016.

That generosity “is what I love about Venice,” Jones said.

And it helped put the Applebee’s restaurants in the district at more than $5,000, triggering a promise by the district manager to wear a lemon suit in each of them.

Getting ‘customized’

Woods designed the tattoo to be symbolic of the foundation, Applebee’s and Florida. With a degree from an art institute, she said she has been using skin as her canvas for more than 20 years.

She got her first tattoo at age 15 and “I fell in love with them,” she said.

“It’s all I do all day, every day,” she said. “The whole process is really cool — helping people customize their skin.”

Jones’ skin was already somewhat customized. He said he has three tattoos and another one that’s fading that he wants to get removed.

“You probably don’t like to hear that,” he said to Woods.

“It’s OK,” she said. “It’s like wiping the canvas clean.”

No ‘nos’

Jones said he now has to think up a challenge for this year’s Toys for Tots campaign. The restaurant brings in kids for breakfast with Santa and gives each one a present in addition to what it donates to the toy campaign.

There are raffles, and the mascots from the Tampa Bay Rays, the Baltimore Orioles and the Charlotte Stone Crabs make an appearance.

The event has sold out three years in a row, he said.

His restaurant also is involved with the Boys & Girls Club; Venice elementary, middle and high schools; Habitat for Humanity South Sarasota County and other community organizations.

In the four and a half years he’s managed it “we’ve never had to say no,” he said.

Doherty Enterprises is also very community minded, Sweeney said, and “helping to fight childhood cancer is important to us.”

It’s important to Applebee’s, too. It has contributed more than $10 million to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, one of only two corporations — along with Northwestern Mutual — to do so, according to the foundation’s website.

Halfway through the roughly hour-long procedure Woods complimented Jones’ for holding still.

“He’s doing really well,” she said.

It didn’t hurt, he said, though “I’m sure my staff wishes there was some pain.”

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