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Cristino's Coal-Oven Pizza Opens In Ybor City

After four years in Clearwater, the Cristino brothers -- Lenny, Marco and Joe -- found the perfect spot in Ybor City for their second Cristino's Coal-Oven Pizza and Italian restaurant.
 
"It brings the Old World back to Ybor," says Lenny Cristino.
 
The brothers had been searching for a long while for the right location, he says, and opted to renovate a vacant site at 1701 Eighth Avenue. Previously the building was operated as Spurs, a country bar with line dancing, and Play, a bar and live music venue.
 
The restaurant has an approximately 12-member staff.
 
The Cristinos hired award-winning architect Elliott Wheeler, owner of Elliott Wheeler Architect to give the restaurant a warm, Old World feel, and oversee installation of the brick coal-fired oven. Owner Lenny Cristino says the oven is one-of-a-kind cooking feature in Florida.
 
"That was a big challenge," says Wheeler who is based in Ybor City. "It's not a typical architectural feature."
 
It had to meet the design requirements of the Cristinos as well as city code, he says.
 
Wheeler primarily does design work for the hospitality industry and hotels including the Radisson Aquatic Barbados and Courtyard Marriott Savannah.
 
In addition to its use as bars, Wheeler says the building's history goes back decades, and also has seen used as offices and probably a convenience store
 
 In addition to indoor seating, Cristino's has an outdoor patio and bar. 
 
Cristino's menu features homemade pastas including Italian traditional dishes of ravioli and lasagna as well as a homemade vodka sauce for their penne vodka dish. Cold and hot paninis, chicken wings and salads also are available. Coal-oven pizzas are a specialty again made from scratch with homemade ingredients including tomato sauce and mozzarella. For dessert, there are homemade cheesecakes, cannoli and gelato slowed churn at the restaurant.
 
Cristino's also provides catering services.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Lenny Cristino, Cristino's; Architect Elliott Wheeler

Ridgewood Park Opens A Little Free Library

Electronic readers and tablets may be the wave of the future for many book readers. But an old concept -- the free lending library of printed books -- is finding new life in neighborhoods wanting to build a sense of community.
 
The concept has been popularized by Wisconsin nonprofit, Little Free Library, since 2009. The libraries pop up in yards, along bicycle trails and in parks in the guise of small wood boxes perched on thick posts and stuffed with paper books. The idea is to take a book to read and leave a book for someone else to read.
 
On April 12 Ridgewood Park residents will celebrate their Little Free Library, located in a linear park in the 2300 block of Glenwood Drive, off Columbus Drive. 
 
A day of celebration kicks off at 11:30 a.m. with refreshments and live music. Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner is a guest speaker for the unveiling. The free library is funded with a mini-grant from the county's neighborhood relations office.
 
"I've wanted one for ages for the neighborhood," says Stacey Warder, president of the Ridgewood Park Crime Prevention and Civic Association. "It's not only literacy building, it's a unique piece of art. It's community building."
 
Ridgewood's Little Free Library is joining nearly 15,000 other libraries that have sprouted across the world. Wisconsin craftsman, Todd Bol, started the literacy movement when he built a tiny replica of a one-room school house and set it out on his lawn. He placed a sign saying "free books" and invited neighbors to share and swap books. Bol was honoring his mother, a former school teacher with a passion for reading.
 
The Ridgewood library resembles a little house. Warder added a coat of primer and artist Angie Cannata, of Lodestar Studio, constructed a glass mosaic with trees and a tin roof. Cannata also crafted a glass mosaic with the neighborhood's logo and Tampa's skyline in the background, which was installed on a storm drain cover. The neighborhood of bungalows is bounded by Columbus Avenue, North Boulevard and the Hillsborough River.
 
Shellie Posey will serve as library steward, checking to make sure the box is supplied with a mix of title selections. Initially, about 30 or so donated books will fill the box. 
 
Warder says a second library box has been ordered for children's books. It will be placed next to the first Little Free Library, and also added to the world map.
 
As an official Little Free Library, the site will be added to the Little Free Library's world map. "It's quite impressive," Warder says. "They are all over the world."
 
Little Free Library encourages the spread of these free libraries in a variety of ways. They sell the ready-made libraries but they are just as happy to see other nonprofits, individuals or organizations adopt the concept and build their own.
 
Mitzi Gordon, founder of Bluebird Books Bus, is a free library enthusiast whose nonprofit has sponsored four free libraries, two in St. Petersburg and two in Tampa. The most recent was set up in Seminole Heights.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Stacey Warder, Ridgewood Park Crime Prevention and Civic Association

Eco-friendly Communities Get New Design Guidelines

New urbanism is adding a new tool to its design palette for developing communities that are walkable, sustainable and eco-friendly.
 
For nearly 20 years the U.S. Green Building Council has issued certifications to show that building construction has met independent standards for environmental responsibility. But after testing a pilot program, a new certification is being offered, known as LEED ND, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design - Neighborhood Development.
 
This takes a more holistic approach to community development. 
 
On Wednesday, April 9, from noon to 1:30 p.m. the U.S. Green Building Council Florida Gulf Coast Chapter and the Congress for the New Urbanism Tampa Bay will host a luncheon meeting where urban designers Erin Chantry and Vinod Kadu will discuss the new rating system. The event is at The Charter House, 7616 W. Courtney Campbell Causeway.
 
Pasco County developer Frank Starkey also is guest speaker and will talk about his experiences with LEED in developing the new urban community of Longleaf as well as his views on what the new ratings mean for future development. 
 
The cost is $25 for organization members and $35 for non-members.
 
"(The new system) obviously takes into account not just buildings but the streets and overall development," says Taylor Ralph, a board member of the U.S. Green Building Council Florida Gulf Coast Chapter and president of REAL Building Consultants.
 
Storm water, energy efficiencies, sidewalks and recyling efforts are among the factors that will be reviewed in looking at the total project, Ralph says.
 
The Encore development, north of downtown, is expected to be one of the first master-planned communities in Florida to qualify for the new LEED certification.
 
Encore is a $425 million mixed-income housing and retail development being built by the Tampa Housing Authority and Banc of America Community Development Corp. The Ella, a 160-unit senior apartment building, opened in 2012 and is fully occupied. The Trio, a 141-unit multi-family apartment building, is opening in May. The Reed, a 158-unit senior apartment building, is slated to open in 2015 along with The Tempo, a 203-unit multi-family apartment building. Retail, a grocery store and a hotel also are anticipated for Encore.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Taylor Ralph, REAL Building Consultants

Historic Bungalow Turns Into Welcome Center, Safe House For LGBT Community

A historical bungalow will soon be home to the LGBT Welcome Center and Coffeehouse, a gathering place for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community and visitors to the Tampa Bay region.
 
An opening date is scheduled for June 27-29, the weekend of the St. Pete Pride Street Festival and Promenade, one of the country's largest gay pride events. However, funds are needed to complete on-going renovations.
 
At 7 p.m. April 11, The Studio @620 will host "Queery", a live music and art show to benefit the welcome center. The show will feature musical performances by Mark Castle, Young Egypt, Laser Collins + Lars Warn and artwork by Mia Culbertson, Emily Miller and Priscilla 3000. A $5 donation will be collected at the door. The Studio is located at 620 1st Ave. S., St. Petersburg.
 
Creating a welcome center at 2227 Central Ave. is a long-time goal of the nonprofit Metro Wellness and Community Centers, which for more than 20 years has provided the Tampa Bay community with a range of HIV services, wellness and social programs. The organization has locations in St. Petersburg, Tampa and New Port Richey.
 
"(The welcome center) will connect tourists and residents to our services and offer new space for a hangout and to hold meetings, to have classes, meet with friends and for dates," says Adam Jahr, Metro's program manager. "One of our goals is to be a safe space for at-risk and troubled youth."

Nearly half of the LGBT youth are bullied, says Jahr, adding that data also shows that about 40 percent of homeless youth are from the LGBT community.
 
The welcome center also will offer travel resources for visitors, such as special deals for dining and entertainment, and general information on arts, cultural events, ticket locations and "things to do" in the Tampa Bay area.
 
The bungalow was donated to the nonprofit and relocated a short distance from the historical Kenwood neighborhood to the Grand Central district. It sits next door to Metro's thrift store on Central Avenue.
 
In a "Name a Room" campaign, approximately $140,000 is being sought to renovate bungalow rooms including the living and dining rooms, kitchen and reading room. If you are interested in naming a room, contact Larry Biddle at 813-417-1225.
 
There also are opportunities to donate for items such as coffee mugs or t-shirts, and commemorative tiles to be installed in the bungalow's fireplace.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Adam Jahr, Metro Wellness and Community Centers

Seminole Heights Tour Showcases Historical Homes

Bungalows, mid-century Modern and more will be showcased at the 16th Annual Seminole Heights Home Tour.
 
The event is from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 6. The starting point is the Seminole Heights Garden Center at 5800 Central Ave. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 the day of the self-guided tour.
 
A portion of the proceeds will benefit Urban Art Attack and Habitat for Humanity. The tour is sponsored by the Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association and the Old Seminole Heights Preservation Consortium.
 
Nine homes are on the tour representing every neighborhood within the Greater Seminole Heights' area including Old Seminole Heights, Hampton Terrace, Southeast Seminole Heights and South Seminole Heights.
 
The varied architectural styles reflect the historical character of one of Tampa's oldest suburbs, initially founded in the 1900s. There are 1920s bungalows lovingly restored but also homes from the 1940s and 50s. One home shows how a mid-century Modern kitchen renovation can be true to its historical period and also up-to-date with modern conveniences.
 
Seminole Heights in recent years has emerged as a destination neighborhood with restaurants, shops, coffee houses, bars and micro-breweries.
 
"I like the culture and diversity (of Seminole Heights)," says Bill Truett, a home tour committee member. "The area is still showcasing what it's like to live here."
 
People can pick up tickets and maps at the garden center on the day of the tour. They will be able to drive on their own or hop on one of the Jolley Trolleys. In addition, the Seminole Heights Bicycle Club will have a mapped route for people who choose to ride bicycles. The bike route will be clearly marked on the roadways and members of the Tampa Police Department's Bike Patrol will assist with navigating busy streets and intersections.
 
For more information and advance ticket locations, visit the association's website.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Bill Truett, Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association

Chihuly Collection Opens New Store In St. Pete

Visitors to the Chihuly Collection art gallery in downtown St. Petersburg can expect a new Chihuly experience when they step into the gallery's expanded retail store.
 
A grand opening is planned from 4-6 p.m. April 4 at the gallery at 400 Beach Drive. The following day visitors can tour Seattle Artist Dale Chihuly's permanent collection of glass-blown creations for the discounted price of $1.
 
The Chihuly Collection, owned by the Morean Arts Center, opened nearly four years ago. It is the first installation of Chihuly's internationally acclaimed glass sculptures in a building specifically designed for that purpose by award-winning architect Albert Alfonso of Tampa.
 
The approximately 2,500-square-foot retail store increases the space for merchandise from the Chihuly Workshop, including 2014 studio edition glasswork, limited edition prints, books, DVDs, notecards and assorted Chihuly-brand gifts. The shop will have a separate entrance off Beach Drive.
 
Among the studio editions for sale are Marigold Persian, Sahara Basket Set, Maya Blue Persian and Zinnia Macchia.
 
There also is a new emphasis on showcasing Florida artists of all mediums in the reconfigured and redesigned retail shop. The inventory will include more jewelry, artisanal soaps and pottery. And, about 1,000 square feet of former retail space now is a rotating art gallery that will feature glass artwork from artists around the country.
 
"We're trying to have more products of Florida artists along with the elements of Chihuly," says Andy Schlauch, the Chihuly Collection's executive director.
 
Cypress, black steel and concrete floors are among the architectural features of the interior design by Rob Bowen Design. The special touches are meant to mimic Chihuly's famous boathouse in Seattle, says Schlauch.
 
Biltmore Construction completed the work over several weeks. Concrete floors are by Scofield.
 
"It's a new open floor plan," says Schlauch. "I especially love the dark charchoal concrete floors. The feel will be something very different from what people experience on Beach Drive."
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Andy Schlauch, Chihuly Collection

SMARTstart Gets Second Business Incubator In New Port Richey

One success leads to another as the Pasco Economic Development Council prepares to open a second business incubator site for its SMARTstart program, this time in New Port Richey.
 
A May 1 opening for the new business center is planned inside a city-owned former post office building at 6347 Grand Blvd. City officials also are looking to open a city-operated "maker-space" program to encourage business creation.
 
The building had been unused for some time, says Krista Covey, SMARTstart's business incubator manager and PEDC's economic development manager. "They (New Port Richey) were trying to support entrepreneurship and spur business development in downtown New Port Richey," she says. "We obviously have had great success with the Smartstart program."
 
SMARTstart will occupy the largest share of the approximately 9,000-square-foot building. Covey says two potential start-up applicants are under review. "They have not been approved yet," she says.
 
About 40 volunteers pitched in to spruce up the building in April. Work crews are completing renovations, including painting and installation of an emergency exit.
 
The partnership of SMARTstart and the city's maker-space program is "a first that I'm aware of," says Mario Iezzino, New Port Richey's economic development director. "It's a really great marriage between two concepts that are able to help get viable new businesses started."
 
The city is awaiting funds for maker-space, probably in the fall, Iezzino says. The program is designed to give entrepeneurs the tools to turn ideas into businesses.
 
"It brings in a different kind of entrepreneur," he says. "We have a lot of tinkerers. It's another way people can bring their ideas out of the garage."
 
The new SMARTstart incubator will be modeled on the first one at the Dade City Business Center, which has five on-site start-up companies and two off-site companies. The start-ups are The Busy Buddy, Stephanie Reed Photography, Innovative Payroll Services, H.B. Whitaker, Arielle Management Group, Flying R Group LLC, and Computers Etc.

An open house is scheduled for the business center from noon to 3 p.m. Friday at 15000 Citrus Country Drive, Suite 103, Dade City.
 
SMARTstart offers resources and support for people starting a business, moving from a home-based business or re-establishing a business. Services include consulting and mentoring, one-on-one counseling, business plan development and marketing advice.
 
A network of agencies and organizations provide support including Saint Leo University whose faculty and students assist in developing business and marketing plans.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Mario Iezzino, City of New Port Richey

Symposium Aids New, Existing Small Businesses In East Tampa

Wondering how to build a marketing plan that will grow your business? Or just want to  know the nuts and bolts of how to start a new business?
 
The all-day Tampa Bay Small Business Symposium will gather experts in business, marketing, finance and government who will share advice and offer encouragement. The free event will be held from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, March 29, at the NFL Yet Center at Jackson Heights at 3310 E. Lake Ave.
 
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn will be guest speaker with a message on "Creating New Opportunities for Small Business."
 
There will be panel discussions, break-out sesssions and  a networking luncheon with guest speaker Charles Long of the U.S. Small Business Administration. Symposium topics include marketing, finance, networking, technology and social media. 
 
"We want to help the person who is new to business or has a business and wants to know how to expand, how to get into computers or hire more people," says Essie Sims, event moderator and chairman of the East Tampa Community Revitalization Partnership. "How do you get from the garage to brick and mortar?"
 
The partnership is a volunteer advisory group that works with Tampa city officials on redevelopment strategies for the East Tampa area. It is one of several event sponsors and participants including the city of Tampa, Hillsborough County, Central Florida Community Planning & Development, SmallBusiness Symposium.com, Hispanic Business Initiative Fund, Tampa Bay Economic Development Corporation,  Suncoast Credit Union, Sam's Club and Blue Lynx Marketing.
 
This is the second annual business symposium. Last year's event drew about 200 people, says Carrol Josephs-Marshall, symposium organizer and partnership board member.
 
The focus this year is on break-out sessions to allow more one-on-one discussions between business owners and panel experts.
 
People ready to start a business will be able to get information on the programs, tools, strategies and support organizations that can help turn an idea into a reality. New businesses or established businesses can find out how to move to the next level with advice on marketing, finances and technology.
 
"We're hoping to help small businesses sustain themselves, to give them the tools they need to succeed," says Josephs-Marshall.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Essie Sims and Carrol Josephs-Marshall, East Tampa Community Revitalization Partnership

Le Meridien Hotel Plans June 1 Opening In Downtown Tampa

Get ready for Tampa's newest luxury hotel. The renovated and historical Classic Federal Courthouse on Florida Avenue is almost ready for its debut as Le  Meridien.
 
Opening date for the upscale, 130-room hotel is June 1, with a grand opening planned for later that month. It is one of 11 Le Meridien Hotels & Resorts planned in the next 12 months by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.
 
Le Meridien Tampa brings an artsy vibe to what the city plans as an "art promenade" on Zack Street between Florida and Ashley Drive. Guests at Le Meridien will receive a free pass to the Tampa Museum of Arts. A wall on the main floor, near Bizou Brasserie and Longitude Bar, will be a gallery of the best from local artists.
 
"Le Meridiens around the world emphasize art," says Gary Prosterman, CEO of Development Services Group in Memphis. "It has a tremendous amount of architectural features that are really appealing. It's obviously a different experience from just your typical business class hotel or certainly different from a select service hotel."
 
The "cultural heritage traveler" and the creative segment of travelers, regardless of profession, will appreciate the environment and amenities at Le Meridien, Prosterman says.
 
The 109-year-old neo-classical building is on the National Register of Historic Places but for years sat vacant. In 2012 the city, with Tampa City Council approval, agreed to a long-term lease. DSG was selected as developers for the project. Kobi Karp of Miami did the conceptual design: The Beck Group is design builder, serving as architect and construction manager; and Ferrell Redevelopment of Tampa consulted on the building's historic preservation.
 
Two courtrooms have been transformed. One is now the Bizou at the top of a grand staircase leading to the main floor. A fourth floor courtroom is the hotel's ballroom.
 
Marble and terrazzo features, floor-to-ceiling windows and extra wide corridors recall the grandeur of the historical courthouse.  Guests can enjoy modern conveniences of business and fitness centers, an outdoor lawn area for dining, the restaurant, bakery, coffee house and bar, and a garden.
 
Room rates will vary with peak season prices ranging from about $180 to $280; in off-peak season rooms will be about $150 to $220.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Gary Prosterman

Jet City Espresso Opens In Seminole Heights In Tampa

Drop by Jet City Espresso in Seminole Heights and you may find yourself in the midst of a jam session. Guitars, ukulele and banjo, within easy reach of a comfy couch, are invitations for the musically inclined to start strumming and singing. A tuner and pick are on the mantelpiece.
 
They aren't just a decorative whim.
 
"We don't mind if you pick them up and play them," says Jet City General Manager Veronica Lee.
 
Within the past month this Seattle-style coffee house has settled into a 1920s bungalow at 5803 N. Florida Ave. The house is the former location for Jai Dee Yoga and Wellness Studio which moved to its new location at 5610 N. Nebraska Ave.
 
Owner Jessica Glover did little to change the warm, earthy decor of the bungalow's interior beyond adding a kitchen and preparation area. "The inside was just so gorgeously done," Glover says. "We didn't have to change that."
 
Glover opened her first Jet City Espresso nearly three years ago in her Hyde Park home on South Edison Avenue. The Seminole Heights' coffee house is an expansion into a revitalized neighborhood that Glover has had her eye on for quite some time.
 
"We like the uniqueness here, the community of people," Glover says. "We love to see it turning around and focusing on the positive. I'm super happy with this here."
 
A grand opening in Seminole Heights is in the planning stages within the next weeks. And, Lee says open mic nights will follow with Irish and folk music among the genres that will be played.
 
An alcohol beverage license to sell beer and wine is pending and extended hours are anticipated. For now the coffee shop is open for breakfast and lunch.
 
Glover bakes daily, offering an assortment of scones, breads, bagels, quiches and cakes. The menu also has fresh salads and sandwiches. Gluten-free and paleo options are available.
 
Freshly ground and brewed lattes and coffees are poured, including Jet City's signature "Cafe Borgia," a honey, orange infused latte with nutmeg and orange zest.
 
Glover favors local produce and fresh foods and recyclable/compostable products.
 
Some of her menu items go back 18 years to when she first opened a Jet City Espresso in Tampa in the mid-1990s. "It was the first Seattle-style coffee in Tampa," says Glover, a Seattle native. "I was light years ahead of the game. It was so new to Tampa."
 
She closed her shop after five years and opened a restaurant in Colorado. In 2008 Glover returned to Tampa and revived Jet City Espresso, a concept that is in tune with its time.
 
"I love it," says Glover.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Jessica Glover

Cry Baby Cafe Arrives On Harbour Island By Downtown Tampa

Cry Baby Cafe is a new arrival to Harbour Island and one that owner Andrew Bonnemort wasn't expecting. But he had a ready name at hand when a spot suddenly opened up across from his long-time restaurant Café Dufrain.
 
The name is one his mother had long wanted to use for a restaurant. She even had a logo concept inspired by the family's ranching history that Fourthdoor Creative Group sketched out for her son's cafe, at 710 Harbour Post Drive.
 
The roadway ends a few yards away at Garrison Channel with views across the water of Tampa's skyline and the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
 
"It worked out perfectly that (Cry Baby  Cafe) is right across the street," says Cathy Bellatin, who is in charge of events and marketing for Bonnemort's restaurants.
 
Cafe Dufrain, at 707 Harbour Post Drive, began more than 10 years ago as a deli-coffee shop but soon expanded into dinner hours with beer and wine.
 
Cry Baby is a gourmet sandwich and coffee shop where breads, croissants, quiches and baguettes are baked on-site daily. No preservatives, fillers or artificial flavors are used.
 
Breakfast items include goat cheese souffle and steel cut oatmeal with dried fruit. For lunch there is a variety of sandwiches including a "Roscoe" with hand-carved smoked brisket, red onion, cry baby relish and grain mustard served on a French roll. Premium vegetarian-fed meats are supplied by North Country Smokehouse, a New Hampshire-based business that has been family-owned for more than a 100 years.
 
Organic coffee is made for Cry Baby Cafe by Sweetwater Organic Coffee Roasters in Gainesville, Fl., and meets fair trade standards.
 
"We try to locally source whenever possible," says Bellatin.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Cathy Bellatin, Cry Baby Cafe

Trader Joe's Opens In South Tampa

For Tampa's hard core fans of Trader Joe's, the treks to Sarasota are over. At 8 a.m. Friday, Trader Joe's brings its quirky brand of grocery shopping to South Tampa.
 
With some fanfare, but not too much, Trader Joe's takes over the former Shapes fitness center at 3808 Swann Ave., west of Dale Mabry Highway.
 
"We cut the cord of a giant lei," says Trader Joe's spokeswoman Rachel Broderick.
 
And, the shopping begins.
 
Store manager Aimee Pawelek and Regional VP Kent Smathers will be on hand for the lei-cutting.
 
Expect to get a flower necklace handed to you from Trader Joe's sales crew. They'll stand out from the crowd in loud Hawaiian shirts. A day of festive celebration is planned with food demonstrations, live music, a balloon artist and more.
 
Copies of Trader Joe's irreverent newsletter, "Fearless Flyer" will soon arrive in area resident mailboxes.
 
The much-anticipated opening day is bally-hooed on Facebook pages, blogs and media outlets. It was the source of rumor and speculation nearly a year ago when Shapes closed its gym in July.

Trader Joe's doesn't release figures on job hires, but Broderick says 70 percent of the jobs were filled with local residents.
 
Cap Dale Mabry LLC, a Greenville, S.C. development company and affiliate of Centennial American Properties, bought the site in August 2013 for about $2.7 million, according to Hillsborough County records. Barry Byrd Architecture of Knoxville, Tenn. did the design.
 
The decor mixes cedar-covered walls with Hawaiian tiki-style features. Colorful murals throughout the store honor Tampa Bay history including Plant Hall, Hillsborough River State Park, Ybor City and Clearwater Beach.
 
The former gym was expanded slightly to about 12,300 square feet. Trees were added to the landscaping to buffer the adjacent parking lot from nearby homes. Centennial American Properties also got variances to install three Trader Joe's signs.
 
The California-based grocery store that morphed into Trader Joe's was founded in the late 1950s. It adopted the Trader Joe's name in 1967.
 
Shoppers are attracted to the off-beat, eclectic and ever-changing products that fill Trader Joe's shelves. As many as 3,000 items bear Trader Joe's brand name including Trader Joe's salsas, fried rice and marinara sauces. As many as a dozen new items are added to shelves weekly.
 
Ruggedly Adventurous Cowboy Bark, Tandoori Naan, Collier's Welsh Cheddar Cheese, Kenya AA Coffee and Palak Paneer are among products listed on the company website. But there is also Trader Joe's Raw Pignolias (pine nuts), Grass Fed Wagyu Beef Burgers and Chocolate Chip Scone Mix. And the now-Three-Buck Chuck Wine (pay more if you like) is ready for a party.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Rachel Broderick, Trader Joe's

Walmart Opens Neighborhood Market in Largo

A new Walmart Neighborhood Market is delivering groceries, pharmacy services and more than 90 jobs to the Largo community.
 
Walmart representatives and community leaders attended the recent grand opening of the store, located at 9020 Ulmerton Road, off Starkey Road. At the ceremony $6,000 in grants were given to Boys & Girls Club of the Suncoast, Largo Middle School and Teen Tyne Productions.
 
The store will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It offers a full supply of groceries including organic and natural foods. There also will be prepared foods for sale, fresh breads and baked goods and a self-serve deli with items such as pork loin ribs and rotisserie chicken.
 
Up to 95 full- and part-time jobs are provided at the new store. It is the second neighborhood market to open in Largo in Pinellas County. Walmart is a national chain known for its discounted general merchandise and super centers. The company opened its first neighborhood market in 1998 and now has 300 nationwide.
 
Store manager Shane Dellus began his Walmart employment as an overnight stocker.
 
"We are excited to bring new jobs to the Largo community and to help residents save money so they can live better," said Dellus. 
 
In addition to jobs and shopping convenience, Walmart representatives say the market helps promote the company's efforts to fight hunger by providing neighborhoods with local shopping options.
 
"One of our goals is to locate stores in food deserts," says Walmart spokesman Bill Wertz.
 
The U.S. Department of Agriculture identifies "food deserts" as low-income communities that have limited access to affordable and nutritious foods. The Ulmerton Road store is within proximity of a neighborhood identified by the USDA as a food desert. 
 
Walmart plans to have as many as 300 stores in food deserts by 2016. Wertz says to date Walmart has almost 100 such stores open.
 
Walmart and the Walmart Foundation has pledged up to $2 billion to fight hunger through 2015. Walmart stores in Florida donated 26.8 million pounds of food in fiscal year 2013, or the equivalent of 22.3 million meals. In the same year, Florida received more than $53.6 million in donated aid from Walmart.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Shane Dellus and Bill Wertz, Walmart

The Busy Buddy Moves Into Dade City's SMARTstart Incubator

The Busy Buddy is moving from home base to office space as it joins other fledgling businesses at the SMARTstart incubator site in the Dade City Business Center.
 
Owner and President Kellye Dash, 39, started her business support services company as a part-time venture operated from her home while working full-time as an Information Technology (IT) manager for another company.
 
In 2012 she took The Busy Buddy full-time and in January moved into the business center at 15000 Citrus Country Drive in Dade City in northeast Pasco County. 
 
"I always knew I wanted to have my own business," says Dash, a 2007 graduate of the University of South Florida. "This is my opportunity to strike out on my own."
 
She currently works with two sub-contractors to help businesses on a range of issues, including social media, email marketing, web research, database cleanups, event and meeting coordination, and special projects
.
One of her clients is Tampa engineering firm, Heidt Design, which has worked on residential development projects including Fishhawk Ranch.
 
"I'm looking to grow," says Dash. She plans to add staff as her business expands both locally and nationally.
 
SMARTstart is managed by the Pasco Economic Development Council, Inc. It is the first venture of its kind in the county, providing networking opportunities and technical support to small businesses. While some startup companies are located at the business center, others are located off-site.
 
"We're all trying to grow and collaborate and share in the challenges we have and help each other," says Dash.
 
She grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and moved to Tampa nearly a decade ago. She lives in Wesley Chapel with her three daughters.
 
In the future, Dash is planning to offer an internship at her company. She especially wants to be a mentor to girls and women. "You can do whatever you want to do," she says.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Kellye Dash, The Busy Buddy

Buildings Alive Tour Showcases Ybor City History

Hop aboard a Jolley Trolley and get an insider's look at Ybor City's most historic buildings.
 
For the third year, the Ybor City Museum Society is sponsoring the Buildings Alive Ybor City Architecture Hop. From 5-10 p.m. on March 6, trolleys will shuttle people along a route that showcases nine of Ybor's oldest buildings, including the J.C. Newman Cigar Factory, the Don Vicente Inn and The Cuban Club. There will be a scavenger hunt with prizes and from 8-10 p.m. an after party with live entertainment, food and beverages at the Ybor City Museum State Park garden.
 
Trolley guides will provide a few clues for the scavenger hunt as well as facts and legends about Ybor City. Hosts will be available at each building to talk about its history and current use.
 
When the society held its first architecture hop, it was planned as a one-time event. But the tour proved a great hit. The mix of buildings changes year to year. Bright House is the event's signature corporate sponsor. A $6,900 grant from the Ybor City Development Corporation helps fund the hop. Support also is provided by the American Institute of Architects, Tampa Bay Chapter.
 
"It's become a real community event," says Chantal Hevia, president of the museum society. "You can come each year and still see something different or new."
 
One of the stops is at Design Styles Architecture on Columbus Drive. Nearly two years ago the firm relocated from Clearwater and spent about $300,000 restoring the approximately 74-year-old, two-story building. It once was a neighborhood grocery store that sold food and produce to Ybor's cigar workers.
  
"It's a perfect example (from Ybor's history) of people having retail downstairs and living upstairs," says Hevia.
 
Other stops will be at the Ybor City Museum Society, Carne Chophouse, Florida Business Interiors, USAmeriBank, and TMD Windows and Doors.
 
The hop starts at one of two registration and check-in points: Stantec, located at 2205 N. 20th St., with free parkng for 120 cars; and Centro Ybor, located at 1536 E. Seventh Ave, with parking one block away at Centro Ybor Garage.
 
Advance tickets must be purchased by Feb. 28 and are $35 or $25 for museum members. Tickets on the day of the event are $45 or $25 with a valid student identification.
 
For information call the museum at 813-247-1434 or visit its website
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Chantal Hevia, Ybor City Museum Society
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