text messaging software

Terrafugia Takes Travelers from Runway to Highway

posted by Bob Deakin
May 11, 2013

Back in the 1960s, television documentaries promised by the year 2000 everyone would be able to fly around with their own personal jet packs. We’re still waiting for the jet packs but in the meantime there is now a flying car available for consumer use: The “Transition Roadable Aircraft.”

Made by the Terrafugia Company of Woburn, Massachusetts, the Transition is now available for purchase with the first deliveries slated for late 2012. Although the final price has not been set the projected cost is approximately $250,000. It was developed by MIT grads Anna Mracek Dietrich, Carl Dietrich and Samuel Schweighart, who are also three of the co-founders of Terrafugia.

The production prototype is making its public debut next week at AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The company has a second production prototype also nearing completion at this time and those aircraft will be used for testing over the course of the next year in preparation for the first delivery.

In the air

“The Transition solves all four of the major problems that you face as a private pilot,” said Anna Mracek Dietrich, referring to cost, weather sensitivity, high door-to-door travel time and lack of mobility at the destination. “All of us that started the company are pilots and have faced those inconveniences and problems before. We wanted to do something that would make flying more convenient, safer and fun.”

The Transition’s wings fold for driving on the road but otherwise it looks just like a small plane. It has a rear propeller, rear-wheel drive and a 100 hp Rotax 912X engine that runs on (91 octane or higher) unleaded automotive gasoline. It gets as much 35 mpg on the road with a high speed of more than 100 mph. It’s a certified aircraft engine and it powers the propeller for flight and the wheels on the ground. The gross take-off weight is 1,460 pounds with a flying range of approximately 500 miles on its 23 gallon tank.

The pre-flight walk-around check is very similar to a small plane with the additional check of the mechanical locks that hold the wings in place for flight. It has similar avionics found in any small private plane.

Like most small aircraft the pilot may cruise as high as 14,000 feet – more typically from 2,000 to 10,000 feet – and it is required to take off and land at airports under Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules. For safety on the road it is built with a safety cage, crumple zone and air bags. For flight it even includes a full vehicle parachute in the event of an emergency.

At the pump

“It’s a great innovation that became available on the market several years ago,” Dietrich says of the chute. “It’s for a last resort if you’re in a situation you simply can’t recover from whether it be a medical issue or something highly unusual. You would pull the handle for the parachute and it would bring down the entire airplane. It’s a system that in other aircrafts has saved hundreds of lives already.”

It has an automotive-style entry and exit with automated, electromechanical folding wings controlled from inside the vehicle with a touch screen cockpit user interface. On the road the Transition is 80” tall and nearly 20′ long. It has two front seats and enough storage for carry-on luggage and golf clubs.

It has been approved for use on the roads by motor vehicle departments across the United States as well as by the FAA. Any licensed sport pilot may operate the Transition and Terrafugia will be offering Transition-specific training when the vehicles are delivered.

The Transition is built by Terrafugia and as of yet there is no service contract but the company will make more information and options available as the delivery date draws closer. Service and repairs can be made by any certified aircraft mechanic.

Dietrich adds, “I’m sure there will be some systems that you’ll want Terrafugia involved with in the service but most of the systems are fairly standard for an airplane.”

Anna Mracek Dietrich at the door

She said there have been as many as a hundred models of flying cars developed over the years by many builders and firms but none have lasted on the market and there is no current competitor delivering a product.

“There’s a lot of other activity in the roadable aircraft, flying car space right now which we see as a great validation for the usefulness of it as a vehicle that can both fly and drive,” she says. “In terms of a fully-automated, self-contained, fixed-wing aircraft in the light sport category that’s practical transportation we don’t see any competition right now.”

Terrafugia intends to establish its reputation an aircraft manufacturer with hundreds, not thousands of aircraft produced each year. The company has other ideas for aircraft but is focusing all of its attention on the Transition for now. It continually posts updates on its web site and Facebook page.

Terrafugia already has more than 100 orders for the Transition and a $10,000 refundable deposit is required. Although the owners will have more than a year to wait for delivery, it’s still much quicker than waiting for those jet packs.

Terrafugia Transition video

Copyright 2012

World War II Veterans Honored with Flight to D.C.

posted by Bob Deakin
June 3, 2013

WWII veterans from St. Petersburg pose in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial in Washington this past May, when a similar flight flew to the nation's capitol. Photo courtesy West Central Florida Honor Flight Veterans from all over the Tampa Bay area will fly to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday in honor of their military service.

More than 70 aging World War II veterans from Tampa Bay are embarking today on an unusual one-day, whirlwind trip to Washington, D.C., to see the National World War II Memorial.

The veterans will fly from St. Petersburg·Clearwater International Airport on a trip organized by Honor Flight of West Central Florida (HFWCF) and funded by private donations.

The World War II Memorial that the vets will visit was dedicated only seven years ago, nearly 60 years after the war ended. It will be the first – and perhaps the only – time the men will see the memorial.

All expenses are covered for the veterans, and there will be volunteers there to assist them. Many of these men are now in their 80s and 90s, with some requiring wheelchairs.

“When the veteran shows up at the airport in the morning, we know what to expect,” said organizer David Howard of Gulfport. Howard and his wife, Barbara, the group’s treasurer, will both volunteer as “guardians,” and they’re excited to go.

The trip is arranged by the nonprofit, which is run entirely by volunteers, to extend thanks to these aging military heroes. HFWCF is one of 104 chapters of the national Honor Flight.

“My wife’s dad flew Honor Flight out of Chicago a year ago,” Howard said. “He was a guy who never spoke about the war (served in Europe) and he went on this Honor Flight, and it just changed his whole life.

“When they came home from World War II, they were pretty much in agreement not to talk about what happened over there because it was pretty horrific, and they haven’t.”

The Howards were so impressed with the Honor Flight from Chicago that they set out to form an Honor Flight chapter in the St. Petersburg area. They soon learned that retired Air Force Col. Fred Olson, now president of HFWCF, had already done so. So they joined as volunteers.

On Tuesday morning, the veterans will meet at the airport before dawn, be served a complimentary breakfast and board the chartered flight from Allegiant Air and arrive in Washington early. They will visit the World War II Memorial and other memorials.

George Blackmore, 92, of St. Petersburg is a decorated veteran of the Merchant Marine during World War II. His ship was attacked by the enemy in almost every ocean in the world; he earned three combat service medals and the Merchant Marine Medal.

“The Merchant Marine lost one of every 26 seamen that went to sea. That was more, percentage-wise, than all the other armed forces put together,” he said. “I’m looking forward more than anything else to honor the one out of every 26 that went down to sea.”

How was his initial welcome home from the war?

“Very few people welcomed me back,” he said. “The Army, the Navy and the Marine Corps got the glory, and we were just forgotten about. I’m not looking to be honored. I’m looking for the service to be recognized. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Charles Moore, 86, of Clearwater was a photo navigator for the Army Air Corps on a B-29 over Japan, serving from 1943-46. He will be aboard the flight to Washington.

“We’d go up and take pictures from Guam,” he said of his World War II experience. “We would take pictures, bring them back and brief the bombing crews on the targets. The next day we’d go out and take more pictures and bring them back and they’d do bomb damage assessments.”

He is eager to get on the plane to Washington.

“I’m very excited about the trip,” he said. “One of the problems is they were so long in building a memorial for World War II veterans, whereas for Korea and Vietnam they built those immediately after those wars. They waited until half of us died off before they built a memorial.”

Frank Poplawski of Sarasota served in the Marine Corps during World War II from 1942-45 and remembers a friend suggesting they join the Marines because it would be fun.

“I passed; he failed,” he notes, adding, “I’m not a hero. I did see three major battles at the beginning of the war in the Pacific. I saw action at Tarawa, Saipan and Pimian and was on the field when [Paul] Tibbets (in the Enola Gay) took off to bomb Hiroshima. That was about it.”

He didn’t know, of course, what the mission was. “There’s a bunch of B-29s out there; they must be doing something.”

Lester Palmer, 91, of Largo enlisted in the Army Air Corps the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Before that, he had been a flight instructor at Roosevelt Field in Long Island. He remained there on standby-reserve before being called up for active duty.

“My service was not as exciting as some of the others might be,” he says modestly, downplaying flights through the Aleutian Islands. “I consider it quite an honor to be called up with these guys who probably had a lot more involved activities in dangerous situations than I’ve been in.”

The veterans will fly back to St. Pete on Tuesday night, have dinner on the plane and be welcomed back as heroes when they arrive.

A two-star general will be waiting to welcome each one, and a color guard will lead them through the airport. They will be escorted and saluted by MacDill Air Base cadets, the Patriot Guard, Boy Scouts, families and others.

Howard hopes this trip will hold special meaning for the veterans. “This is our last chance to thank them,” Howard said.

Want to get involved?

The cost of the flights is as much as $60,000 and Allegiant gives HFWCF the flight at cost. The organization will gladly accept donations or letters to veterans. E-mail Leonard Black at lblack1927@aol.com to submit a letter or call the organization at 727-498-6079 to make donations.

Anyone who wishes to welcome the veterans home at the airport is welcome to do so. They are scheduled to arrive at 7 p.m. Tuesday. 

Currently, there is a waiting list of 450 veterans in the Tampa Bay area to take part in future trips. There also are plans in the works to host veterans from the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Originally published on Patch.com in June 2011

Copyright 2011

Frank Poplawski, 86, of Sarasota is living a life that many only read about, and what most can only imagine.

He served in the Marine Corps during World War II from 1942 to 1945 and is fortunate to have survived, let alone be at the scene of one of the most famous flights in history. He came home to a welcome seen mostly in old film reels.

Frank Poplawski of Sarasota poses in front of the fountain for a recent photo in Washington D.C. Photo courtesy of Frank Poplawski

Poplawski had a chance to re-live the welcome home this past week as part of Honor Flight West Central Florida, which provided an all-expense paid flight for 71 World War II veterans to Washington D.C. to visit the monuments.

As serious and as dangerous an experience as his service as a marine was, it all started with a friend’s encouragement for a good time.

“My friend John said ‘Frank let’s join the Marine Corps, we could have a lot of fun,’” he remembers. “I passed, he failed.”

Poplawski had actually been accepted as a Naval Aviation cadet after high school as well as a student at Norwich University but chose the Marines instead. His job was relaying communications between the artillery companies and the forward observer.

“We got trapped in between the two lines for about two and a half days (in Saipan) so I had to dig a fox hole and lay low with shells going overhead,” he explains of his most harrowing moments. But he survived and thanks the Lord for intending something more in his future.

“When you can hear the Japanese talk, you wonder if one of them is going to wander into your hole,” he says of the battle. “When you’re 18 you don’t think about those things. Somebody else is going to get hit, not me. When we hit the beach on Saipan I had friends on both sides who got hit and I was the only one that survived.”

He took part in battles in Tarawa and Saipan, but it was at Tinian where he witnessed the preparation of the flight of the Enola Gay to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Tinian was the closest of the islands to Japan but he did not know, of course, what the mission was.

“There were a lot of B29s there. The coating of the planes that were there were silver underneath the belly. I knew nothing about the atomic bomb. Nobody did,” he said. “But you get kind of suspicious; Why in the hell are all of these planes here with all of this silver lining on the bottom.”

He didn’t ask any questions.

“That to me was a great experience. I’m not proud of what happened because of the [Japanese] people that got killed, but the other thing I’m proud of is the fact that one hundred thousand [military personnel] didn’t get killed going into Japan.”

Along with some of the lucky members of the military, he was welcomed back with waving flags, bands playing and applause. He also utilized the experience for his benefit, going to college and earning an engineering degree from the University of Vermont. He had a 20-year career at both Boeing and Grumman as a director of procurement, purchasing parts for some of the most influential aircraft in future military efforts.

“When I graduated from school in ’49 it was about like it is today; no jobs,” he remembers. “I bought things for all of the divisions of Boeing. After 20 years with them, Grumman was building the F14 and somehow the headhunters got a hold of me because of my experience.”

Following his career at Grumman he opened an antique store in Bethpage, NY for the next 20 years and loved it.

“It was so much fun. I love people and that’s what made it so enjoyable,” he says, injecting humor at the passage of time. “You’ve got 20 years, 20 years and 20 years. It adds up doesn’t it?”

He moved to Sarasota two years ago and has three children including a daughter in town, one in Bradenton and a son in New York.

As much as he was fortunate to enjoy a hero’s welcome back from World War II, Poplawski feels even more fortunate for the welcome he received at the St. Petersburg Clearwater Airport this past Tuesday upon the return from the Honor Flight to Washington, which was delayed two and a half hours because of weather.

“Now I feel I know why the lord kept me this long; so I could see these children coming in to St. Petersburg,” he says of the welcome home, which included a greeting by hundreds waiting for them at the airport, including many children. “All of these people standing there cheering – my god, somebody really thinks about us after 60 years. There are some people that really care, and especially these young kids.”

He credits members of Honor Flight West Central Florida for a great trip and even a ride to and from his home in Sarasota to the airport. Also included in the flight home was a packet of letters personally addressed to him and the others from well-wishers giving thanks for their service to the country. Poplawski was so overwhelmed with the gestures he shook hands with everyone he could get to.

“I had a wonderful time. The monuments were exceptional, the people were exceptional and the weather was good but the most splendid time was getting back to the St. Petersburg Airport,” he says. “Young kids – four, six, eight years-old waiting with their mother and father. Waiting two and a half hours, so I took the opportunity to go and shake hands with almost every one of those little kids.”

He said his message to them was hope they would be the next best generation.

Honor Flight currently has 105 chapters across the U.S. and West Central Florida has made a big mark in its two flights, the first one May and more slated for the future.

“Boy I tell you Florida really treats the people right. That was really exciting for me. It was wonderful, absolutely wonderful,” Poplawski attests. “To me that was the most important part of the trip. Looking at monuments is one thing but looking at people that are standing there waving their hands and cheering and clapping with the children really touched my heart.”

Originally published on Patch.com in July 2011

Copyright 2011

Pleasure Doing Business: Media Concepts, Inc.

posted by Bob Deakin
May 28, 2013

Rick Smith at the film transfer machine. Photo by Bob Deakin

It all started in 1974 when John P. Gallagher and Bob Skidmore, two broadcast veterans in New York, came to Florida to sell in-room, closed-circuit movie systems to local hotels. The idea was a hit and eventually led to renting movie videos, which led to a video production facility, and the business continues to evolve to this day.

Media Concepts is now owned by Scott Richardson and Rick Smith, who both worked for the original owners and continue to roll with the punches in the media business. Located at 559 49th St. the building is well marked but but well hidden at the same time. Few probably realize how much equipment and history is steeped inside the three structures that house the business.

Media Concepts is a full-service media production facility offering in-studio and remote broadcast-quality digital video, editing, duplication, film transfer and more. It sells the latest in audio/video equipment – consumer and pro – and rents gear and with a consignment shop selling vintage and modern equipment.

Rick Smith led a tour of the facility last week and it is a sight to behold for any audiophile. There are vocal booths, editing suites, studios, a repair shop, and a showroom.

He was hired by Gallagher and Skidmore in 1978 and his job was to keep the closed-circuit movie systems maintained.

“We would go to the hotel and put these two humongous – I’m talking 80-pound machines – specially modified, into the hotels. We’d tap into their antennae system and it could feed each room,” he explains.

“It was a unique situation because you had a two-hour movie and unfortunately it had to be on two (¾ inch) tapes. We had to modify the machines to play to the end of tape one and then trigger machine number two to start, and then have them both rewind and reset themselves for the next on-demand play time.”

VHS became popular soon after and Media Concepts started producing industrial videos and commercials taking advantage of the demand for the new technology.

“The two original owners had a production background so they had the recording equipment and we did production for local business and industry, people like Honeywell and Sperry,” Smith remembers. “These industries had the need for video but didn’t have their own video departments. Back in 1978 it wasn’t like it is today when you can pick up a phone book and there are ten pages of video guys.”

In the early 1980s they started renting movie videos when no one else did.

“At one time we were the largest movie rental facility in Pinellas County. We had ten thousand movies in here. This was before Blockbuster, Hollywood Video, before any of those guys came out. This room was filled, wall to wall, with VHS movies.”

The mom and pop video stores started popping up in the Tampa Bay area and most of them bought movies from Media Concepts. When Blockbuster and the others crept in, Media Concepts crept out ahead of the curve.

Smith and Richardson purchased the business in 2008 and both of the original owners still live in South Pasadena. The business continues to work with individuals, local hospitals, the Dali Museum and large corporations dealing with anything video. The staff of five is constantly moving and visitors are best advised not to stand in one place too long.

It used to make mass duplications for Tony Little, the well-recognized TV exercise instructor (with pony tail) in his early days. At the time they were buying tape from Sony, Fuji and others in standard lengths but decided it would be cheaper to load their own tapes at lengths of their choice so they developed a system and were soon running VHS tape copies, as many as 200 machines at a time, 24/7.

Media Concepts maintains most of the old equipment including one-inch and two-inch video machines for clients who still need it. Formats include M2, ¾ inch, Betacam, Betacam SP and even those in European formats, all of which can still be transferred to digital.

Through all of the changes in formats over the years, the business keeps a step ahead of competition.

“They all moved in and decided they were going to try their hand at the same thing and we have seen them all come and go,” Smith says. “It’s only because we weren’t doing just one thing – equipment rentals, editing, duplication, sales, service, engineering, on and on.”

Media Concepts offers a valuable list of services from shooting pro-quality digital video to transferring old super 8 films to making mass CD copies of the latest music demo.

“One of the most unique things we do is film transfer,” Smith says. “Old 8 mm film, Super 8, 16 mm film. We’ve got a film chain, known as a multiplexer, for film transfers right here.”

It is a service usually farmed out to a distant facility.

“There are some precious memories there that you are putting in the hands of some clerk,” he says of chain stores. “Scary. So we do a lot of film transfer. A lot of transfer of old format to the new format – VHS tapes, Beta tapes. We had a guy come in here yesterday with 39 old Betamax tapes he wants us to transfer to DVD. Old videos of his family that he wants to preserve.”

What is the next popular format?

“The industry really wants to move to solid state,” Smith explains. “Hard drive is still a platter, Disc is still a platter; moving parts. We want to get to the thumb drive; the SD card. That’s where most of the camera technology is moving now is into solid state recording media.”

Media Concepts also provides writing, music, producers, voice talent and any other aspect of a project with the many contacts they have nurtured over the years.

Smith is on the board of the 49th St. South Business Association and secure at the current location and hoping to improve the area and make the corridor more appealing to new businesses.

“No radical changes, just trying to stay ahead of that curve,” he says of the future. “It’s all about reading, talking to people, trade shows, getting out and getting a feel for what’s going to be the next big thing. Right now we’re in a state of limbo. We’re really in between that transition from analog to digital and marrying the video side with the television side with the computer side.”

Borrowing a line from the Media Concepts web site, “If the past is any indication of the future, then they have just begun…”

Originally published on Patch.com in June 2011

Copyright 2011

Orangetheory Puts the Squeeze on Fitness

posted by Bob Deakin
April 30, 2013

The front facade of Orangetheory Fitness near Fishbone Grill on 4th St. N. in St. Petersburg, FL. Credit: Orangetheory Fitness

ST. PETERSBURG – Motorists along 4th Street North could not help but notice the fluorescent orange bicycles parked sporadically along the road in recent weeks.

No, these were not free bikes to promote energy efficiency. The visual stunt was just one of the unconventional tactics Orangetheory Fitness to create a buzz about its new-fangled gym that purports to offer “the best one-hour workout” in the country.

The first Orangetheory franchise opened in Fort Lauderdale in 2010 and now sports eight locations in Florida and Arizona combined, and expects to have as many as 20 by the end of this year.

The idea is to make personal training affordable by offering it in groups with high energy sessions that push members to the utmost of their capacity for the greatest possible results.

Members wear heart-rate monitors. In one-hour workouts, they can on large HDTV monitors just how hard they’re pushing themselves. The desire is to experience the “orange effect,” or being in the upper heart rate zone for maximum benefit.

Patrons receive a readout of their heart rates after they work out to track their progress. Members are screened beforehand to assure they are physically able to participate.

Orangetheory St. Pete opened July 15. It already has 400 members.

The owner of the St. Pete franchise is Terry Blachek, a veteran of the fitness industry. He is one of four founders of the Orangetheory franchise. He talked with Patch about this most unusual idea.

Q: Who came up with the concept?

A: Ellen (Latham) is the exercise physiologist, the exercise science person behind it. She originated the actual workout. She had her own studio that had Pilates, yoga, spinning and what she calls the “Ultimate Workout.” We kind of pulled that out, created a partnership and created Orangetheory, and it’s based on that ultimate workout.

Q: What’s with the name?

A: It’s based on a color concept where blue is cool, red is hot and orange is an energy color. We opened the Ft. Lauderdale facility and had all white lights, put an orange film over, and it looked pretty cool. We created a name around that, then wrapped the energy color around that, and of course we’re from Florida.

Q: Explain the business model?

A: Orange Theory is affordable group personal training. If you went to any [other] fitness, club you’re probably going to pay for one hour, anywhere from $50 to $75 one-on-one. We take the concept and put you in a group of 20 to 24 people with two trainers and you can do it for $10 to $15 per session.

Q: What makes it the “ultimate” workout?

A: Every person wears a heart-rate monitor so that during the workout you can see your heart rate up on the big screen. That’s really the science behind the Orange Theory. If we get your heart rate to 85 percent in that target zone for 12 to 20 minutes during a 60-minute workout, you’re going to have an increased metabolic range for the next 36 hours or an increased caloric burn. We call that the orange effect.

Q: What is a typical session like?

A: The class is one hour long. We use suspension training, free weights, benches, elastic straps, dumbbells. Twenty-five minutes of strength, twenty-five of cardio, about a five-minute warmup and a five-minute stretch and cool down.

Q: Why join?

A: You’ve got 24 people in a class, the music’s booming and you’ve got two trainers, and people are laughing and having fun. What’s most important is it’s an engaging class and people are bonding with their peer group… We’ve been called the best one-hour workout in the country. If you’re looking to change your body and be engaged and make some friends, this is the best workout for you.

Orangetheory St. Pete is located at 5032 4th St. N., next to Bonefish Grill, and can be reached at 727-897-5566, or through Facebook or Twitter.

Orangetheory St. Pete Slide Show

Originally published on Patch.com in August 2011

Copyright 2011

Pleasure Doing Business: The Bug Man

posted by Bob Deakin
April 21, 2013

The Bug Man sign on Gulfport Blvd. in Gulfport, FL. Photo by Bob Deakin

Rick McChesney opened “The Bug Man” extermination business 33 years ago out of his home and opened the retail location in Gulfport in 1991. Florida has always been a paradise for pests and McChesney enjoys a thriving business doing battle with them every day.

Originally from Knoxville, TN, McChesney has lived in St. Petersburg most of his life and as physically demanding as the job can be, he maintains a sense of humor and is as much into educating clients as he is doing the job himself.

The “Bug Man” sign in front of his store is ingrained into the memories of passersby on Gulfport Blvd. and to those who have never stopped, the tiny showroom offers a bit of education with a display of all insects known to infiltrate local homes. He also sells all of the hypoallergenic chemicals he uses to rid homes of pests.

He got started in the business by accident, he says with a laugh. “I was a jet mechanic. The company lost their government contract, I got laid off, took a part-time job with an exterminating company and the part-time job turned out to be 70 hours a week. I never had time to look for another job, got licensed through them and ended up starting my own business five years later.”

He says infestations come and go in phases.

“Fleas seemed to be bad for a few years then they’re knocked out and something takes their place. Rats are a big problem right now. They’re getting into more attics. The more populated an area is the easier the rats are able to thrive.”

He warns a full-grown rat can squeeze through a ½ inch space and that prevention is the best measure, properly sealing all openings. They typically climb the home’s utility wires and sneak in from the roof.

The plan of attack is to catch and remove without leaving dead carcasses and seal off the access points.

McChesney will provide regular maintenance to prevent such unwanted guests and offers free estimates beforehand.

Termites are a constant problem and the wood frame homes in Gulfport harbor plenty of places to hide. He says locally they’ve been doing less swarming in recent years – citing a University of Florida study – but that just as much activity and damage is taking place.

Are roaches indestructible?

“They’re able to evolve,” he offers. “The palmetto bug or the American roach, twenty years ago, didn’t fly. More and more they kind of flutter and half-fly but we never used to see that.”

He explains it’s now their way of getting around poisons and sprays, that the German roach has the ability to sense insecticide and walk around it rather than through it. As they’ve evolved he has resorted to baiting rather than spraying.

“Over the years the treatment methods and services have evolved to more natural, safer and longer-lasting [products],” he says. “When I first started in business we used DDT and a lot of things that have [since] been outlawed.”

He rattled off a few other products that are no longer used and assures the new chemicals are safer and more effective.

“The chemical manufacturers are working on the DNA of insects using insecticides that biologically affect them while not affecting people.”

Does he enjoy the work?

“Love it. I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else,” he assures. He works about 60 hours each week and has three employees including his son, Joe, one of seven he and his wife, Mary-Pat, have raised.

McChesney is a member of both the Florida and the National Pest Management Association. He is also a past president of the Gulfport Chamber of Commerce and still sits on its board of directors. He’s always been a visible presence in town and speaks warmly of the people and the city of Gulfport.

Asked if an unlicensed exterminator can do harm he quickly assures so.

“Typically the unlicensed people don’t have the training to know what they’re doing but safety is the biggest concern with unlicensed operators.” He is required to take continuing education each year to keep his licenses current and is regulated by the Florida Department of Agriculture.

The hardest part of the job, he says, is getting under homes, in crawl spaces and suffering hot attics in the summer. Still, he’s happy doing battle with the invaders every day and plans to keep up a good fight. He has more than 3,000 loyal customers including the first two from 1978. Most have been with him for 5 to 20 years.

Reach The Bug Man at 727-323-4008, through the Bug Man-U-Do-It Pest Control Supplies web site or Facebook page.

Originally published on Patch.com in August 2011

Copyright 2011

PilotMall.com Is Flying High

posted by Bob Deakin
April 17, 2013

PilotMall.com owner and president, Neil Glazer at his desk. Credit Bob Deakin

Neil Glazer’s business has one of the best views at the Albert Whitted Airport, overlooking Tampa Bay to the east and downtown St. Pete to the north.

What works for Glazer’s business, however, is its presence on the virtual highway, rather than its airport location.

Glazer owns and operates PilotMall.com, a 13-year-old aviation superstore that relies on a web presence and mail-order catalog to do business. And business is good.

A pilot himself, Glazer is well-versed in the industry, and offers almost anything a pilot or aircraft enthusiast would want (“everything for the pilots, nothing for the planes,” as he says), whether it is head phones, a flight simulator, GPS unit or educational materials.

On a recent visit to the Whitted Airport, Glazer was focused on the three large-screen monitors at his desk as he conducted business; several employees packed supplies for shipment in the 1,800-square-foot warehouse. The staff works in close quarters inside the crowded warehouse, going about business pulling and stocking as many as 5,000 different products PilotMall.com sells.

Glazer and his employees just returned from EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisc., where they had the largest independent pilot supply exhibit. The week-long air show is attended by up to a half-million aviation enthusiasts each year.

Originally from Rockland County, New York, Glazer moved to St. Petersburg six years ago, looking for a change and taking advantage of a good deal on office and warehouse space at Whitted Airport. He holds a commercial pilot’s license and ratings. He founded PilotMall.com in 1998 while he was in flight school. It has had an online presence ever since.

Glazer is on an advisory board for Sustainable Entrepreneurship & Innovation Alliance at University of South Florida St. Petersburg. He and his brother Max also co-own Men’s Direct Luxury Grooming Products, which are available online and in the PilotMall.com retail store.

He answered questions about the business and AirVenture.

Q. How did PilotMall.com participate at EAA AirVenture?

A. We actually set up a retail store. We have two locations at that show, about 2,000 square feet of exhibit space. We mainly promote our company and sell at the show. We bring out a truckload of inventory and set up shop. It’s a really big show so it’s easy to get lost. Every hotel within a 60-mile range is sold out.

Q. Did you always plan on getting into an aviation-related business ?

A. While I was in school at the University of Buffalo I wanted to learn how to fly. After I got my economics degree I went through a professional pilot program with the goal of going into the airline (industry). PilotMall was originally just a side business and just took off, and flying became a hobby.

Q. Do you fly much these days?

A. I own a plane, and I fly regularly. I’ll be in the Bahamas mid-month for a trip, and in September I’m flying to Haiti on a mission with Bahamas Habitat.

Q. Does PilotMall.com offer any other services?

A. We don’t do any instruction. The only kind of off-shoot thing we do is called Bahamas Pilot Challenge. It’s a joint marketing program between PilotMall and the Ministry of Tourism in the Bahamas. It promotes tourism out there with a flying adventure that we set up.

Q. Would you consider opening more retail locations?

A. I’ve tried to do retail in the past, and it’s never really been successful on its own. We’ve found over the years it’s just a small percentage of our business. The mail order business is what makes it succeed.

Q. Are you involved with any outside activities, with the business or not?

A. (PilotMall.com) is involved with Angel Flight Southeast, which is a not-for-profit in our industry that provides free transportation for those in need, whether it’s for medical needs or for whatever humanitarian reasons. I’m also on its board of directors.

The PilotMall.com retail outlet at Whitted Airport is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Phone: 727-209-2586. PilotMail.com also has a Facebook page.

Originally published on Patch.com in August 2011

Copyright 2011

There Must Be an App for That!

posted by Bob Deakin
April 9, 2013

(L to R) Kevin Hohl, Sean Carey and an actor for a recent shoot the company was working on. Credit: HD Interactive

Sean Carey founded HD Interactive in 2002 as a web development company doing a host of digital projects. In recent years, it has focused more on developing apps (application software) for Mac, Android, Barnes & Noble NookColor and other platforms.

The company has virtual offices throughout the Tampa Bay area but now has a base in St. Petersburg through the sales and marketing efforts of Kevin Hohl, who bases operations out of 8th Street, near Tropicana Field.

Hohl is a vfamiliar face in the Central Avenue district.

He is on the board of directors of Creative Clay, which provides an outlet for art to the developmentally disabled in St. Petersburg. He also sits on the board of the Leadership St. Pete Alumni Association, which also plays an active role in the city.

As a licensed Adobe partner, HD Interactive sees a lot of the new software before others, giving it a bit of a competitive advantage in developing games. Adobe has used HD Interactive as a case study and included two of their games in ads currently running in Times Square in New York.

HD works with companies such as Hilton, Disney, Universal Studios, Siemens Energy and others for various projects throughout Florida and the U.S. But the experience gained developing apps has suddenly got clients knocking at their door to develop new apps for them.

HD Interactive is currently contracted to develop apps for outside firms and they have developed several new game apps of their own and plan to continue with that trend, which appears to be an obvious upward trend. Company owner Sean Carey answered a few questions this week to put the company’s growth in perspective.

Q. What is your presence in St. Petersburg?

A. Besides myself, Kevin helps with sales management and marketing and wears a bunch of different hats. That was one of the really nice selling points of bringing Kevin on the team is how deep his roots are in St. Pete. He’s got a great base of contacts in St. Pete where as I have that in Tampa and Orlando. He helped bring another geographical area to our company and we do a lot of work in St. Pete now.

Q. How much of your time is spent on apps?

A. It’s gone from ten percent of our business to maybe a third of our business and it keeps growing and growing. By some time next year it’s probably going to be more than half of our business. Probably three quarters of our company is still working on web site projects and other work from existing clients.

Q. You build up enough of a reputation through word of mouth?

A. We really don’t need the web site anymore to sell client work so I figured if somebody comes across our site let’s let them know about the apps that we create and lead them to our blog or Facebook page. I have probably three new leads a week at least that just come to us organically, so that we don’t need to go out of our way looking for work.

Q. How do people find the apps?

A. They look on their iPhone, iPad or Color Nook and just look under the game category or new releases. We blog about them, put them on Facebook and have people writing reviews for us. That’s really the biggest challenge in this industry is you can develop a super great game but if you can’t get it in front of enough eyeballs it really doesn’t matter.

Q. Who develops the apps? For instance, your MrMixit game?

A. We work as a team. Every project has at least two people on it. Usually there’s one person that does the code and there’s one that does the creative side of it. I’m in between as the coach just making all the recommendations and testing and steering.

Q. Any industry changes you’re riding the wave of?

A. The Barnes & Noble NookColor. It’s a very inexpensive Android tablet. Most people look at it as a competitor to the Amazon Kindle but it’s an Android device so you can go into the marketplace and download apps. Barnes & Noble has their own app store and they’re trying to be selective and not have a bunch of junk. Our word game Pyramix made it up to the fifth best selling app of the app store, but there are only 366 apps in their store compared to a million on iPhone and iPad. We’re going to see if we can ride that wave a little bit.

Q. What competitive advantage do you have?

A. Adobe is [featured us] on Adobe.com and we’re getting a lot of press as a result of that. It’s great for our clients because when they come to us and say we want an iPhone and an Android app, often these other companies are quoting the iPhone and Android as two separate projects. By using Adobe Flash Builder we’re able to build it once and publish to both platforms and save them a bunch of money.”

Q. Do you enjoy it?

A. It’s a lot of fun. We’ve built up a nice business. We work with great clients and we do a good job but it’s my dream to be able to eventually create games full-time and apps like this and not have to go through the grind of contracts and deadlines of all the stuff we’ve been dong for so many years.

Originally published on Patch.com in August 2011

Copyright 2011

St. Pete’s Rhino Studios a New Option for Artists

posted by Bob Deakin
April 5, 2013

Rhino Film Studios logo. Image courtesy of Rhino Film Studios.

St. Petersburg filmmakers, musicians and video artists are discovering an affordable option for studio space at Rhino Film Studios on Central Avenue.

Sean Michael Davis, Tom DeMint, Cliff Gephart and Paul Kubala opened Rhino 18 months ago, offering affordable services, equipment and a surprising amount of space in an eclectic setting.

They have rented out the space for shooting political advertisements, work for independent film projects and local colleges and demo tracks for music recording. The owners have made themselves a presence in the neighborhood with a little advertising and word of mouth; they have become one of the few places to rent a professional studio at $50 per hour.

The primary attraction is the space itself. The main section includes a green room for video effects as well as a separate area for in-studio interviews and other uses with a full complement of lights, stands, microphones, cameras and accessories.

For music, it includes a fully-equipped Pro Tools digital audio suite with the studio on the other side of the glass. The studio will provide directors, producers, editors and engineers upon request.

Rhino Film Studios’ space is unique, with a large bar and lounge area set up at the front of the house complete with stools, couches and a large conference table. Interspersed throughout the space are antique cameras, movie posters, several individual writing and editing areas and a makeup room. Although “film” is in the name, it’s more a reference to projects as opposed to film technology. Many of the projects shot are in digital formats, including high definition.

One of their clients, HD Interactive of St. Petersburg, recently recorded the music to their newly created iPad game and game apps at Rhino in preparation for a product unveiling in Times Square in New York. Other clients include student producers and directors from Eckerd College and the University of South Florida, including Corey Horton, who recently won several film and video awards.

Tom DeMint plays the role of business manager for strategic development at Rhino Film Studios, and he took some time to show the facility and answer a few questions last week.

Q. Who is your target audience?

A. We’re directly targeting the smaller, artistic producers and directors that want to make smaller (budget) productions. The studio’s main objective is to rent to other producers, directors, talent, photographers and various productions. We also rent it for events with photo shoots, red carpet, etc.

Q. Why Central Avenue?

A. We had been involved in political circles doing some video and other things and we had gotten wind that the 600 block was going to be converted to an artists’ block. We were actually the first ones to sign a lease, and we’ve been here since. We came in, looked at it and it looked like a good idea – a good concept to put a studio right here to kind of embrace the whole artistic community downtown.

Q. What would you like it to become?

A. We thought this would be something unique, and if it gets some traction and the local producers and directors kind of make it their home, so to speak, this would be a fun, interactive place where the film communities can mingle and talk and produce projects.

Q. Any new developments?

A. We’re in talks with a 3-D company to do 3-D productions and make this one of the few sites in the state of Florida that would have a 3-D HD production site. It’s a piece of equipment that actually holds the cameras in a way that produces the 3-D effect. This has been designated as a site by that company to do some 3-D HD shooting.

Q. What do you hope to accomplish?

A. One of our goals is to do a YouTube program such as a “Thursday Night Live,” right out of here with music and skits. We want to have fun, too. It’s a business, but we kind of feel like we’re giving back to St. Petersburg in a way. We could do productions ourselves and just have the studio, but this business model is basically to help St. Pete as an artistic community and try to get some liftoff in the Tampa Bay area for production as a whole.

Originally published on Patch.com in July 2011

Copyright 2011

Pleasure Doing Business: Sea Breeze Manor Bed & Breakfast

posted by Bob Deakin
March 21, 2013

Lori Rosso worked for years in Washington D.C. for numerous organizations arranging tours for diplomats before landing in Gulfport as the owner of a B&B. Photo courtesy of Sea Breeze Manor.

Lori Rosso stumbled upon a gem of an opportunity nine years ago in acquiring the Sea Breeze Manor Bed & Breakfast. She didn’t have much time to ponder the opportunity but took it and ran with it and continues on a fast pace, getting more involved with her community as she goes.

Originally from Long Island, New York, Rosso worked hard to develop a successful career arranging delegation tours for Washington diplomats throughout the 1980s and 90s, ascending to the level of arranging trips for President George Bush (senior). In that role she acquired one of the all-time intricate titles bestowed upon a person: Special Assistant to the Assistant to the President for Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs.

After 20 years she tired of the atmosphere in Washington and discovered the availability of a newly refurbished bed & breakfast in Gulfport. She made the plunge without knowing the community.

“I literally stumbled across it,” she says. “I didn’t see the town or know anybody here. I just felt it was time for a change. I was 34 and all things kind of aligned.”

She had 25 days to make a decision to stay in Washington or become the owner of a B&B in a small Florida city on the water and chose the latter. She doesn’t regret the decision.

The Sea Breeze Manor building was built in 1923 and was a private residence until 1996 when Lawrence and Patty Burke acquired the property and did a complete restoration, preserving the original elegance of the building and opening it as a B&B.

In 2002 Lori Rosso found out about it and made the move to purchase the building and property and make a go of it herself and ever since has been “chief, cook and bottle washer.” The only thing she doesn’t do is housekeeping, which she leaves – on her own account – to those better at it than her. She also has loyal family and friends who cover for her in the event she is tied up with other responsibilities.

She has grown the original idea into a successful business and along the way developed friendships and a lifestyle that she longed for, whether she realized it or not.

“I compare it to a walking anonymous resume for twenty years where the first question out of somebody’s mouth is what do you do?” she says, “to being an integral part of a community and you can see the contributions that you make.”

Throughout that time she has grown roots in the community. She is the president of the Gulfport Chamber of Commerce, Chairperson of the Gulfport Waterfront Redevelopment Advisory Board, on the board of the Gulfport Merchants Association and the board of the Gulfport Senior Center Foundation.

There are two dog-friendly cottages at the Sea Breeze in addition to seven suites in the home, each with a private bath, seating area with patio or balcony and wireless Internet. Guests share in a common living room area stocked with port wine, sherry, soft drinks, snacks and a kitchen.

“It’s just like going to your favorite aunts house,” she says. “It’s been a real adventure. You hear a lot of interesting stories.”

She displays Christmas cards from U.S. presidents and other artifacts at the Sea Breeze from her days in Washington and prepares breakfast for guests each morning but otherwise lets them be.

“For me, it’s about respecting your privacy but also being out there to open myself up to you,” she says.

Her repeat guests know not to call her but to email her. She can also count on help from family and friends when she needs it, as she did recently when the Best of the Road team from Rand McNally and USA Today came to town to judge local restaurants for Gulfport as a finalist in its Best for Food competition.

“I love to see when my guests have been here [in town] for a couple of hours and they come back and they’re like ‘everybody says hello and they’re so nice,’” she says. “They’re amazed that this still exists, especially in Florida in a beach community.”

The Sea Breeze Manor is, of course, busier in the winter months but always active and still young in building its reputation as a destination. The owner has the advantage of being able to promote it by being such a visible presence in the community but promotes the city and its other businesses with the same vigor, referring to herself as a walking, talking commercial for Gulfport wherever she goes.

As for being the owner of a B&B, she appreciates being the host after being the guest in her line of work for so many years. She also places a priority in helping her guests feel grounded and not lose sight of who they are and not what they do for a living.

“When you walk through that door I want you to throw all of that out and just relax and reconfigure and get back to who you are as a human being and just understand the joy of time spent together without those other stresses.”

The Sea Breeze Manor is open year round and located at 5701 Shore Blvd. in Gulfport. Contact Lori Rosso through her Facebook page or at 727-343-4445.

Originally published on Patch.com in July 2011

Copyright 2011

Green Alternative to Cremation

posted by Bob Deakin
March 20, 2013

Sandy Sullivan inventor (L) and John McQueen, president and owner of Anderson-McQueen, in front of the Resomator. Credit Anderson-McQueen

ST. PETERSBURG – The traditional methods for disposing of human remains are to bury or burn.

Now Anderson-McQueen in St. Petersburg is about the introduce a third: Resomation.

This month the 60-year-old St. Petersburg funeral home will be the first in North America to use a pioneering technique developed by a Scottish biochemist that is gaining recognition as environmentally friendly.

Dubbed “Resomation,” the process involves using a mixture of water and potassium hydroxide while increasing the air pressure inside a steel chamber to chemically break down the body.

The result is a small amount of sterile liquid and soft bones that are crushed and placed in an urn for loved ones.

There is no fire, ashes, smoke or pollutants, as there is with cremation.

The new alternative can reduce a funeral home’s greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 35 percent, end mercury emissions into the air from burning tooth fillings, and remove DNA traces from wastewater.

The process takes approximately 2-3 hours, which is about the average time of a traditional cremation.

Resomation was invented by biochemist Sandy Sullivan, who is assisting Anderson-McQueen in the start up.

Sullivan’s Resomation, Ltd. has been developing the system since 2007, and it is distributed by Matthews Cremation of Orlando. Sullivan has a patent pending on the process.

Chambers sell for approximately $400,000 and the cost to clients is slightly more than a typical cremation.

Nikki McQueen, vice president of Anderson-McQueen, offers insight into the cutting-edge process.

Q: Why the move to the new technology?

A: We’ve always been a leader in the funeral industry throughout the nation so we wanted to take this step forward. It’s a huge commitmen,t but we felt it was worthwhile and something we wanted to bring to the community.

Q: You are the first in the U.S. to offer it to the public?

A: Currently we’re the only one in the world that has this Resomation unit. The alkaline hydrolysis process has been in use by the University of Florida and the Mayo Clinic for some years. This is the first time it’s being offered to the public. Behind us the next funeral home to offer this will be Bradshaw Funeral Home (in Minnesota) late this year.

Q: What approvals were you required to abide by?

A: We had to go through the State of Florida for approval as a form of cremation then we had to go through local authorities for the permitting process. We also had to add to our existing cremation tribute center to house some of the equipment.

Q: How is the preparation different?

A: In traditional flame cremation anything like pacemakers could explode. It’s very dangerous for the crematory operator. In this case they do not have to be removed ahead of time.

Q: What is the dress code?

A: With flame [cremation] the deceased can wear clothing and with Resomation they must be in 100 percent silk. All the materials have to be green (environmentally speaking). There is also a container that goes in the unit made of cornstarch.

Q: The family receives the traditional urn?

A: That’s been the question families have asked: Am I still going to get back cremated remains? They do get the remains back in an urn. Typically it can be about 20 percent more [ashes].

Q: What was the motivation to bring the technology to St. Petersburg?

A: At Anderson-McQueen we have 60 years of serving the St. Petersburg community. One thing with cremation, it’s been around for so long but there’s never been a choice. When the opportunity came and Matthews asked us to partner in the first one, we wanted to give St. Petersburg and the surrounding areas this choice.

Q: Has there been a demand for “green” cremation?

A: Families have asked about it. When the opportunity came to be able to offer something they say leaves less of a carbon footprint, we wanted to be able to provide for families that wanted that service.

Resomation Slide Show

Originally published on Patch.com in September 2011

Copyright 2011

Classic Tattoos Make a Mark on St. Pete

posted by Bob Deakin
February 26, 2013

(L to R) Ryan Cullen, Mike Keller, Steve Lanier. Credit: Classic Tattoos

ST. PETERSBURG – Classic Tattoos on Central Avenue opened just three weeks ago, but co-owners Ryan Cullen and Mike Keller are no strangers to the local tattoo scene.

Keller has been a tattoo artist for ten years and Cullen about seven. Tattoo artist Steve Lanier, himself with nearly a decade of experience, also works out of the shop.

The co-owners founded Classic Tattoos four years ago in Pinellas Park on Park Avenue but decided to make the move to St. Pete earlier this year to be closer to their customer base. They do fully custom tattoos, and all three have extensive backgrounds in other art forms.

Classic Tattoos works mostly by appointment but walk-ins are welcome. The shop is bright, clean and reminiscent of a classic tattoo shop with old furniture, artifacts and hundreds of pictures from a wide range of styles, eras and genres.

The three artists each have distinctive personalities and styles; they have developed a word-of-mouth reputation for their artistry.

Cullen, originally from Largo, took a few minutes to answer some questions about Classic Tattoos:

Q. What was the primary reason to move to Central Avenue?

A. It’s up and coming and we like the character of the building. It kind of fits our style. The combination of the downtown growing up and the shop, and [the fact that] a lot of our customers come from the downtown area.

Q. Who are your customers?

A. They range from 18 to 70, everybody.

Q. How did you build your name as a tattoo artists?

A. We’ve always done custom tattoos. We pretty much draw every tattoo for the customer. All three of us have art backgrounds and lately we’ve been into more traditional American tattooing. This shop is more like a history of tattooing, so I think that makes us more unique than any shop off the street.

Q. How did you learn the craft?

A. I got an apprenticeship with a guy in New Port Richey. For about three years I studied under him then I could do it on my own. It was a long process. I also took commercial art and studied liberal arts.

Q. How do you retain regular customers?

A. Giving them a good tattoo every time. They pretty much become good friends, talking to them and hearing stories and what’s going on in their lives. They’re more than just a customer, they become a friend.

Q. What are your long-term goals?

A. I think we’ll stick with what we have here for now. We’ll keep a more traditional street shop and see where our style takes it.

Q. Enjoy the work?

A. Oh yeah. I’d never do anything else.

Reach Classic Tattoos by phone at 727-823-2121, email them individually through their links or contact them through Facebook.

Originally published on Patch.com in July 2011

Copyright 2011

Gulfport Asked to Support Egmont Key Restoration

posted by Bob Deakin
December 1, 2012

Birds nesting on the south end of Egmont in the closed Sanctuary.

Gulfport resident Dave Howard spoke to the Gulfport City Council on Tuesday requesting support for the “Save Egmont Key” project for the restoration of Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge. More than 20 organizations are partnering to convince U.S. Congress to fund a 50-year plan to re-nourish the sands of Egmont Key and he is asking Gulfport to join the group.

“We have some serious erosion going on there,” said Howard, representing Friends of the Tampa Bay National Wildlife Refuges. “There have been attempts over the years – the Egmont Key Alliance has been instrumental in getting some sand on Egmont periodically – but not enough to really create a situation where we can prevent massive erosion.”

No funds or resources are being requested from Gulfport or partner organizations, only verbal support. They include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Army Corps of Engineers, Boca Ciega Yacht Club, Clearwater Audubon, Suncoast Sierra Club, Tampa Bay Pilots, Tampa Port Authority and many more.

The purpose of the restoration is to retain the present size (295 acres) of the island in order to protect its natural habitat and historical remains. The first phase of the project calls for sheet pilings to be installed in front of some of the Fort Dade historical artillery batteries on the island along with 1.3 million cubic yards of sand. Every seven years thereafter it would require 700,000 cubic yards of sand to replace what gets washed away.

The projected cost over 50 years is $37.4 million with $13.4 million to cover the first phase. The remainder of the budget would be spread out over the periodic restorations in order to maintain the island’s footprint.

In 2000 Congress allocated funds for the Army Corps to produce a feasibility study to either restore Egmont Key to its original size (about twice the current size) or keep it from eroding further. It was determined that a complete restoration was not feasible but that a 50-year plan to shore up the island to prevent future erosion was.

“We are not re-nourishing this beach for commercial use. This is basically the greatest bird nesting area we have on the west coast of Florida. We have over 31,000 pairs of birds nesting on the south end of Egmont,” Mr. Howard stated to the Gulfport council, naming various species and adding that the island is accessible by boat only, with approximately 130,000 human visitors each year.

In a phone call Wednesday, Mr. Howard described it as an effort to convince Congress that it is a critical habitat that needs to be maintained and not allowed to erode like Passage Key did. Hurricane Gustav in 2008, in particular, took a lot of sand away from the northwest side of Egmont creating cliffs more than six feet high in sections, preventing sea turtles from safely making their nests.

Egmont Key is home to 30 to 50 loggerhead sea turtle nests each year and Friends of the Tampa Bay Refuges has hired interns to go around the island every morning looking for turtle crawls. If found, they dig up nests and physically move them, egg by egg, to higher ground so they don’t get washed over by the tide.

Tampa Bay channel is dredged every ten years and some of the material is put on Egmont Key to help maintain it but there is no government directive to continue that. Friends of the Tampa Bay National Wildlife Refuges would also like to see more of the dredged material used for that purpose to possibly cut costs for the restoration.

Egmont Key is technically in Hillsborough County, owned by FWS and managed as part of a cooperative effort between FWS and the Florida Park Service. It is both a state park and a national wildlife refuge.

Mr. Howard is assistant treasurer of Friends of the Tampa Bay National Wildlife Refuges, which is one of 230 groups supporting more than 500 such refuges nationwide. It also acts as a watchdog for Passage Key and the Pinellas National Wildlife Refuge.

“A government agency cannot ask for funds for a project like this but individuals or nonprofit groups like ourselves can,” Mr. Howard explained, adding that the more organizations that support the effort the better the chances are of it being approved.

The Gulfport City Council agreed to draft a letter of support for the project and council members will review it for a future meeting before voting whether or not to join the partnership in support.




Originally published on Patch.com

Copyright 2012

Southbury Commons under re-construction. Photo by Bob Deakin

The Southbury Board of Selectmen opted not to grant tax abatement to business owners of Southbury Commons who lost their businesses when the plaza was destroyed by fire early this year.

Selectman Edward Gittines III, a member of the subcommittee reviewing requests by the businesses for abatement of personal property taxes, said that although state statute allows such abatement it would be a bad precedent for the town to set.

“Ultimately our recommendation from the subcommittee to the board of selectmen is to not move forward with the tax abatements for the businesses affected at the Commons,” Mr. Gittines stated at Tuesday’s meeting, citing three reasons.

“First is some of these businesses that have applied for abatements are back up and operating, and it was our feeling that this would provide a tax holiday for businesses that were back in operation for a period of time that other businesses wouldn’t be able to enjoy.”

The second reason, he said, was that if another business in town went bankrupt or out of business that it wouldn’t be given the same privilege of being able to request an abatement of personal property tax. The third was fear of setting a precedent.

Selectwoman Carol Hubert said the amount of taxes that would have been forgiven to the five businesses that applied for abatement amounted to a combined total of approximately $615 prorated for the year.

“We felt too that the numbers weren’t that great [and wouldn't be] that great a help to these businesses,” she said.

“To reiterate, the reason the EDC [Economic Development Commission] brought this forward was to show spirit and caring for the businesses in town,” explained Selectman John O. Turk, also the chairman of the EDC.

The subcommittee was formed in June to address the possibility of giving tax abatement to those businesses destroyed by the fire. Five of the businesses applied for the abatement, which was intended to help them through the difficult time, prorated from the time of the fire through the end of this fiscal year.

The town has assisted some of the business owners in applying for loans and finding new locations to run their businesses. The only motion necessary at Tuesday’s meeting was to accept the recommendation of the subcommittee.

Originally published on Patch.com in July 2011

Copyright 2011

Savory Spice Shop Takes Cue from Food Network

posted by Bob Deakin
June 19, 2012

Paul Bailey, co-owner with wife Joan of the Savory Spice Shop in St. Petersburg, FL. Photo by Bob Deakin

ST. PETERSBURG – Joan and Paul Bailey opened the Savory Spice Shop on Beach Drive eight months ago, inspired by a visit to the original store in Denver and appearances by the franchise founders on the Food Network.

Paul, a veteran of the banking industry, was ready for a change and had a passion for cooking, so he and his wife did some research and eventually made the choice to open last year.

Savory Spice Shop was founded by Mike and Janet Johnston in 2004 and now boasts 11 locations in six states. Janet Johnston has hosted her own show, Spice & Easy on the Food Network, and the couple appears on other Food Network shows from time to time.

The sparkling new store is well-stocked with 400 spices and 140 blends, all packaged and mixed at the Denver location to maintain consistency and freshness. The products are shipped each week in small batches to assure the stock remains fresh.

The shop contains dozens of chiles and chile powders, even more curries and everything from vanilla bean sugar to Dutch cocoa, black truffle sea salt, honey powder, cinnamon, herbs and teas – all free of gluten and MSG.

Prices are reasonable and customers are able to taste samples and purchase very small quantities. On a recent visit Paul opened a bottle of chives displaying a shocking bright green hue and a strong aroma, both testaments to the freshness.

Q. What’s unique about the Savory Spice Shop business model?

A. One of the things we like to do with our customers is when they come in we’ll give them a little orientation and then we have these little tasting jars. Most shops will let you smell, but we like to have them experience the actual taste. In addition to that we sell as little as a half-ounce.

Q. Why not buy spices at the grocery store?

A. They are fresher than what you would find at the grocery store. One of the things about a growing company is we’re moving them off the shelves so everything stays fresh. What you’ll see is our prices are comparable, if not less than, to what you get in a grocery store, and I would challenge anyone to find better paprika, especially the Spanish.

Q. What’s popular in the shop right now?

A. One of the most versatile products that we have is the Capital Hill Seasoning, which is dill-based with shallots. It goes with a salad dressing recipe, chicken salad, anything like that. You can put it on chicken. It makes a really nice herb butter. This sort of just flies off the shelves.

Q. Do you recommend a good curry blend?

A. It depends if they want Thai, which tends to be a little warmer. There is a wide variety of Indian, we have Asian curries, we even have a Spanish curry. The people that are really into curry know just about every one of these. We’ve got Asian, Chinese, Japanese and Ethiopian, which is extremely hot. We’ve also got Cambodian lemongrass, Vindaloo, Tikka Masala; those are the things that people are picking up on.

Q. How about sea salt?

A. We’ve got one sea salt that is smoked over chardonnay oak barrels, and we have a hickory-smoked sea salt. We also have the Pink Himalayan, which is the oldest salt in the world. It’s got more minerals than most other salts and is still harvested – for lack of a better word – from the Himalayan mountains. When they were covered with sea water it left the deposits and they’re still brought down on the backs of yaks… just really fine salts.

Q. How’s business?

A. It’s going very well. Very well received. We get a lot of repeat customers and are doing restaurants now – supplying here and there. We’re finding that some of the restaurants, if they’re doing something a little unusual, they’ll contact us.

Q. How did you decide on the location?

A. I looked at about eight different locations. Mike Johnston came down and I took him all over. I wanted to be downtown. I brought him down on a Tuesday morning in July and he looked around and was like “where are the people?” As it turned out we had the largest opening day of any of the franchises.

If you go

The Savory Spice Shop is at 400 Beach Dr. NE, No. 173; call 727-290-9893. Visit the Facebook page.

Originally published on Patch.com in July 2011

Copyright 2011

The Song That’s Too Sad to Play

posted by Bob Deakin
June 9, 2012
"You and Me Against the World" is from Helen Reddy's "Love Song for Jeffrey" album.

"You and Me Against the World" is from Helen Reddy's "Love Song for Jeffrey" album.

I was always a sucker for a good sappy song from the 1970s. When I was a little kid roaming the shores of St. Pete Beach, Florida, my only cares in the world were finding sea shells and hoping my older brothers and sisters would let me stop by their rooms and listen to music. They were into Chicago, Steely Dan, The Beatles, Beach Boys and others, and I was hip to everything except why The Doobie Brothers called themselves that when they were obviously not brothers.

I did have some of my own forbidden musical pleasures, however, such as The Carpenters and Gilbert O’Sullivan (yes, Gilbert O’Sullivan), but there was one song that I adored, which was just too sad to play on the stereo: “You and Me Against the World,” by Helen Reddy. I remember it occasionally playing in the house, typically followed by everyone going their separate ways or one of my brothers yanking it off the turntable and quickly throwing on something else.

The song was written by Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher and it sadly emotes a single mother’s plight ‘against the world’ and how they’ll ‘muddle through’ when ‘one of us is left to carry on’ and so forth. It’s an amazingly beautiful song. A small orchestra works the melody with a stunning vibrato electric guitar while Helen works her magic on the lead vocal. For added anguish, Helen’s young child is included in the mix, cooing “I love you mommy” at the end for maximum melancholy. The little bastard.

The song’s sentiment fits any situation at a given time of sadness and unfortunately it works really well. Someone in my family bought the record not long after it was released in 1974 and I played it a few times, but it was just too sad to play, and I wouldn’t play it in front of anyone for fear that I might start crying. The notes were sad enough but to hear the lyrics was just too much. It’s so sad that I almost wish it had never been written.

“You and Me Against the World” always hit me hard. I was very independent in a large family and occasionally had ‘me against the world’ feelings, in an immature, dramatic way. Match this with my realization that not every kid had it as good as me, and there we have a powerful emotional collision to ruin a good afternoon.

I must add that at the time, I still had the wonderful innocence to believe that songs were “real” in the sense that the singer was telling their own true story. This caused me to wrestle with the dichotomy: “If you’re Helen Reddy – rich, famous and beautiful – aren’t things going better than that for you these days?” I always wondered what the inspiration for the song really was, so I decided to go to the source, and I contacted Paul Williams.

“It’s one of those songs that seems to resonate with single parents,” he said. “I get a lot of nice ‘heart payments’ from people thanking me for the song. It’s the best part of being a songwriter. Thanks for honoring the tune.”

I didn’t tell him that I’m not really “honoring” the tune though in a way I guess I am.

Another source of torment for me is the apparent message that the song conveys, which is to retain sad memories: The memories alone will get us through; Think about the days of me and you. You and me against the world.

Somebody get me a drink and some pills.

I didn’t ask if he was trying to torment the listener with that message, but I have a growing list of concerns about the song that just might warrant another phone call to Mr. Williams.

Damn you Helen Reddy.

Copyright 2009

Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer

posted by Bob Deakin
May 29, 2012

Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton sing their hearts out.

It’s another wonderful evening together – Lucy and me at the rooftop lounge. The margaritas are going down like water with hors d’ oeuvres to die for. The moon is rising over a turquoise sky with a velvet breeze rustling our hair as the soft pop tunes from the late 70s so appropriately score the scene with an undercurrent of melancholy.

Could she be the one? I ask myself – a fleeting thought comes to me before I stop it in its tracks. Let’s just take it easy and enjoy our time together, I reassure myself knowing the challenge that lies ahead.

My life with Lucy is developing into a thrilling love story but still, there is but one giant hurdle to conquer before we reach the next level, and she doesn’t even know it. I wander and wonder, looking for a way to break it to her gently: I am an openly obsessed Kenny Rogers fan.

That’s right. The Gambler. The Coward of the County. Kenny Rogers Roasters fried chicken restaurants and the duets with the ladies.

Maybe Lucy will take it well. Maybe she’ll love me and maybe she won’t, but I hope if she leaves that she believes in me. I’ll just have to suck it up and go home singing “you picked a fine time to leave me Lucille.”

All of a sudden I decide it’s time to get this over with. I steady myself, puff out my chest, look Lucy in the eyes and announce loud and clear, “Lucy, I’m a big time Kenny Rogers fan, I’m proud of it, I’ll never stop loving his music and if you leave me as a result, I’ll take it like a man. All I ask is that Lucy… don’t take your love to town.”

I can see she’s uncomfortable, wriggling in her seat, looking at her hands, and I find myself deeply concerned with the condition that her condition is in.

“Lucy,” I stammer, the words crashing into the lump in my throat. “You’re my lady. I don’t expect you to fall in love with a dreamer, but you’ve decorated my life in ways you’ll never know. I’ll understand if you don’t need me baby but if you accept me for who I am, through the years, we can love the world away.”

Out of the blue Lucy sings out, “Islands in the stream!” I start to smile but I don’t know where she’s going with this. “That is what we are,” she continues in her best Dolly Parton.

“No one in between,” I respond at the top of my lungs in my stellar Kenny impersonation, hopping on top of our table. “How can we be wrong!”

“Sail away with me, to another world!” Lucy sings out as she joins me on the tabletop, in the cutest, most adorably shilling, delicate Dolly impersonation anyone has ever heard, as if she’d spent years pretending to be Dolly… as I had Kenny.

Then we sing out in unison, for the whole lounge and the whole world to hear:

“And we rely on each other, uh huuuhhh.”

Copyright 2010

Estate Sale From Heaven

posted by Bob Deakin
May 25, 2012

One of these days I’m going to find the estate sale from heaven.

I’ll be driving by late on a Saturday afternoon, long after the professional “taggers” have contaminated the place after their week of planning, research and subsequent assault.

I’ll park in the large, shaded driveway, not on a narrow two-lane major thoroughfare with a 55 mph speed limit, and I won’t feel like I’m walking onto the set of King of the Hill if it wasn’t a cartoon. I will comfortably get out of my car and no dogs will be there to harass me, nor will I experience the requisite rise in testosterone preparing to kill them.

I will leisurely stroll over to the house with a presence of pleasant human beings when a lovely female hostess arrives, leading me through the spotless, palatial estate. Thereafter I take in the sights, observe the wares – all tagged with prices – and wring my hands at the countless opportunities while the score of an Italian film from the early 1960s plays softly in the background.

1957HammondB3Right away I find an old Hammond B-3 organ, just like the one on the pop and rock songs of the 60s, and it works. I confirm the model by easily looking on the back panel, see that all the parts are in place, and make it known to the hostess that I plan to walk out with it, and find that she wants only $50, a significant discount from the several thousand dollars I would expect to pay.

I then head back to the items on display and what to my surprise? It’s an electric vibraphone with the vibrato foot pedals in place, also working, also with a price tag of $50, again a solid discount from the several thousand dollars I would expect.

Once the purchase is secured, before I even make my way across the room, I stumble over a Bang & Olufsen turntable, never used and still in the box from 1982. There is no price tag on it but the hostess doesn’t even know what it is and tells me I can have it for, “does five dollars sound fair?”

Indeed it does. I secure it and continue browsing.

I pass the countless antiques, Ansel Adams prints, 1920s cuckoo clocks, 1930s telephones, 1940s baseball memorabilia and neon Ballantine Ale signs from the taverns of Manhattan in the 1950s, making small talk with the hostess.

rat-packI then spot a dark blue, sharkskin suit with narrow pant-legs, matching white handkerchief and cuff links, circa 1962, a la Dean Martin in the Rat Pack movies. It’s a perfect match for my size, and the hostess modestly utters, “would you be interested in the cocktail mixer set, including etched-glass martini shaker, ice bucket, silver-plated snifters, bottle stopper and tan leather case from the same era?”

“Indeed I would, although I only have so much to spend, and I would like the suit, so…”

All my dreams of the 1960′s are nearly complete and I take a complementary walk around the place, ponder a few more purchases, and notice that I’m a bit parched.

“Would you care for a Negroni? The hostess offers, introducing herself as Maria. “It’s the original martini, the perfect blend of gin, sweet vermouth and bitters. If you don’t mind vintage martini glasses from the set of Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder, I’d be happy to pour you one.”

“Well… I guess one wouldn’t hurt,” I politely respond.

SophiaMaria, who is the spitting image of Sophia Loren in 1960, pours two and hands me one, then gently caresses my hair with a swath of her hand, admitting she’s a bit shy for being so forward on a Saturday afternoon at an estate sale.

“My sincerest thanks to you, my dear,” I say, raising my glass toward hers. “Such a lovely day among such opulence, with such a charming hostess being so kind to a gentleman stranger. What, may I ask, have I done to deserve such splendor?”

And just then, I turn over in my bed and wake up. Damn it! Another Monday. Why can’t I have these dreams on Saturday mornings.

(This story was my submission as a guest blogger on Greg Van Antwerp’s Urban Archeologist blog on June 24, 2010.)

Copyright 2010

Your Name Can’t Be Topaz

posted by Bob Deakin
April 21, 2012

Rough versions of the yellow and blue topaz.

I’m at this party Friday night following a poetry reading and meet a diverse group of interesting people. It is held at a beautiful home by the lake and many of the guests have very exotic names including Felicity, Brando, November, Heath and Brock. My name being Bob, I almost feel too common to be in their company but I make the best of it and welcome the opportunity to meet new friends.

The poetry was very well done. Much of it inspiring, some of it funny and of course the depressing poets were well represented too, bringing us down with the dexterity of a concert violinist. Not being a poet, I feel out of place at the reading but I’m happy to be there and glad to make my way to the party afterward at the invitation of Rain, the poetry group leader. It’s a step outside my normal bounds and I find myself discussing things I haven’t pondered in years.

The food at the party is wonderful and I’m discovering fascinating personalities, exchanging ideas and views of the world and fitting in rather nicely. It’s a rousing soiree and Vespa, the hostess, is quite the social butterfly with a habit of sternly yet eloquently pronouncing the name of each person she is conversing or joking with, usually Felicity, Brando or November.

After a while however, the names are starting to get to me.

Why would someone name their daughter November? I ask myself as I glance in her direction. Nice name, but everyone who meets her must wonder if that’s the month in which she was born. If not, there must be some long-haired story behind it.

Just then, Brando walks up.

Hey man,” he says, asking my name and clicking my glass with his. “Brando. What do you do? You an author?”

I don’t even ask him what he does. He’s Brando, and that sounds like a full-time job in itself: I guess I’m starting to get a little bitter.

I then bump into Felicity as we both walk into the kitchen to freshen our drinks and she is quite the sassy lass. She’s had a few already and asks me if I’m friends with Vespa. I think to myself that I once rode a Vespa – the brand of motor scooter – but that doesn’t seem an appropriate reply. She then tells me, ad nauseam, all about Vespa and how she tunes into the human soul with her poetry and that she’s also a brilliant painter.

My patience is waning and I’m sensing a slow burn at the bottom of my stomach. Just then, Heath strolls up and introduces me to a woman named Topaz, and that brings me to the boiling point.

Your name can’t be Topaz,” I say, condescendingly, refusing her handshake and drawing uncomfortable stares from around the room. “Topaz is an aluminum-based mineral, as far as I know. No offense, but what block head gave you that name?”

Turns out it was her father.

Were you named after the mineral or the car sold by the Mercury Division of the Ford Motor Company?” I continue, burning every bridge in the room and bringing all happiness to a halt.

She cynically explains that her father was a geologist, that the Topaz held supreme significance for him and that the Blue Topaz was her birthstone, from the month of December. I reason to her that before I was born my father drove my mother to the hospital in a Rambler Station Wagon and that perhaps my name should be Rambler.

Imagine the number of songs I could put onto a custom CD mix for friends with my name as the theme,” I say to Topaz as she prepares to throw a drink in my face. “You could be talking to Rambler right now. Imagine Rambler asking your daughter out to a movie next Friday? Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” was Number One on the Charts the day I was born. Perhaps Babe should be my name.”

The good spirit now sucked from the room, Vespa’s sister, Polaris, swiftly escorts me to the door explaining that the Yellow Topaz is the November birthstone, and that November’s parents gave her the middle name of Topaz, which means there are actually two Topaz’s at the party.

It’s time to leave, Bob,” she said, sternly.

Copyright 2010

Christmas Tangent

posted by Bob Deakin
April 12, 2012

Snow Miser from "The Year Without a Santa Claus."

I always loved Christmas, especially the television Christmas specials with the little puppet-like characters. Specials such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town and my favorite, the lesser-known The Year Without a Santa Claus, were something I looked forward to every year, almost as much as Christmas itself.

I can never get the “Mrs. Claus” character out of my mind whenever I think of The Year Without a Santa Claus because it always sets me off on a legendary-in-my-own-mind, never-ending chain of thoughts. Here’s how it goes:

Mrs. Claus is voiced by Shirley Booth, who I always confused with Shelly Winters. Shirley played the wise-cracking maid, Hazel, in the TV show of the same name while Shelly Winters was most noted for her role as the overweight woman in The Poseidon Adventure.

Also in The Year Without a Santa Claus, the Snow Miser was voiced by Dick Shawn, who played LSD (Lorenzo St. DuBois) in the original The Producers movie in 1968. As the Snow Miser he sang one half of the crazy Snow Miser/Heat Miser ragtime-style show stoppers. Yep. Same guy. Mr. Shawn also happened to look just like Max Baer Jr., who played Jethro on The Beverly Hillbillies.

I also remember The Year Without a Santa Claus and other Christmas specials being sponsored by Jimmy Dean Sausage. In my early years I usually confused Mr. Dean with James Dean of Rebel Without a Cause fame. Upon learning that Jimmy Dean was a country singer, I went on to confuse him with Eddy Arnold because they were of a similar genre. I then had an even bigger confusion problem with Eddie Arnold and Eddie Albert of the Green Acres TV show, for obvious reasons.

Compounding this problem in the late 1970s, Eddie Albert starred as a detective in the TV crime drama, Switch, with Robert Wagner, who I constantly confused with Lyle Waggoner, a regular on The Carol Burnett Show. Mr. Waggoner looked like Robert Wagner and the name similarity added to the confusion. It didn’t help that Robert Wagner was married to Natalie Wood, the beautiful actress who I sometimes confused with Joanne Woodward, wife of Paul Newman, because of a somewhat similar physical appearance and the presence of “wood” in their names.

This also reminds me of the 1973 version of the movie, Miracle on 34th Street, starring Sebastian Cabot. Included in the cast are both David Doyle and Tom Bosley, who I was forever mistaking for each other in the 1970s because of their physical resemblance, and for always playing folksy types. Tom Bosley was most noted for his role as Richie Cunningham’s father on the TV show, Happy Days. Adding to the interlocking ball of confusion was Dolye’s most memorable role on the Charlie’s Angels TV show. His character’s name? John Bosley.

Perhaps the most bizarre cross-up in my history involves the actor Paul Benedict, who played the English neighbor, Mr. Bentley, on the The Jeffersons TV show, as well as the incorrectly assumed title character in the film Waiting for Guffman. When I was little and used to watch the Frosty the Snowman cartoon Christmas special featuring the evil Professor Hinkle, who gives Frosty the magic hat, I thought that Paul Benedict and the animated Professor Hinkle were the same person, even though one was real and the other a cartoon. They both had jutting chins, froppy hairstyles, looked middle-aged nerdy and spoke with similar voices and British accents. Don’t ask me how the mis-association happened but to this day, whenever I see The Jeffersons or Frosty the Snowman imagine my warped confusion.

The Year Without a Santa Claus was created and produced by the team of Rankin/Bass (Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass), which created Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Coming to Town, but I always confused them with the team of Hanna-Barbera (William Hanna and Joseph Barbera), which created The Flintstones, Tom and Jerry, and The Jetsons cartoons for kids, which were really for adults.

Now that I think of it, Dick Shawn was also among the star-studded cast of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, as Sylvester, son of Mrs. Marcus, played by Ethel Merman. The cast included, of all people, Mickey Rooney, who – what do you know – voiced the role of Santa Claus in The Year Without a Santa Claus.

Copyright 2009