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Businesses get a ride on NFL's fast track

Terri Hall, a Tampa graphic designer and president of Doubletake Studios, benefited from the NFL’s licensing edge for emerging businesses.

MICHAEL C. WEIMAR | Times

Terri Hall, a Tampa graphic designer and president of Doubletake Studios, benefited from the NFL’s licensing edge for emerging businesses.

Terri Hall learned when the Tampa Bay Bucs won the 2003 Super Bowl just how much fans value memories of the NFL championship game.

"A friend came back from San Diego with a $160 Super Bowl sports tote bag that he just had to have," recalls the 48-year-old owner of Doubletake Studios, a Tampa graphic arts firm.

Armed with jewelry-making equipment she bought a year ago, Hall cooked up a silver-plated belt buckle sporting the Super Bowl logo. It sells for $60 on eBay and selected jewelry stores and memento shops.

Hall's is among several small Florida businesses in an NFL program that fast-tracked minority and women-owned emerging businesses around the league's laborious approval process for licensed Super Bowl logo stuff. That's if you consider eight months a fast track.

Other local products coming: football-shaped luggage tags, glow sticks and drinking glasses all etched with the Super Bowl logo.

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A co-founder of Shells Casual Seafood, Deborah Christen hopes to make a go as the last one standing. The Tampa-based restaurant chain recently collapsed after peaking at 29 stores.

After three remaining independent Shells operating under license gave up rights to the name, she turned back the clock at her Shells No. 1 at 202 S Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa.

"After 24 years operating as one store in a corporate chain that had four CEOs change the menu in the last five years, I was sort of thrilled to be back on our own here," said Christen, ex-wife of co-founder John Christen, who retired a decade ago. "But this has been like starting all over."

That's just what she's doing. She brought back most of the menu from Shells local glory days in the late 1980s. That includes reviving seven one-time signature seafood pasta dishes, three entrees and two sandwiches. She also dropped the restaurant's average ticket by $2 from $15.

"We did keep ribs on the menu," she said.

• • •

What happened to apparel chains that refused to give in to massive discounting to dump holiday goods in November? Look at Abercrombie & Fitch which held full prices to preserve credibility as a higher-end merchant at its trendy stores plus the Abercrombie, Hollister and Ruehl chains. Sales in stores open more than a year dropped a stunning 28 percent. That's twice the 10 to 12 percent decline at rivals Gap Inc., Limited Brands and American Eagle Outfitters.

• • •

After a seven-year drought in new stadium-seating movie theaters, there's some movement despite the economy.

Part of the Alabama family that sold its Cobb theaters a decade ago is getting takers for its new Cobb CineBistro, which combines a stadium-seating megaplex with a sit-down restaurant selling comfort food meals and drinks to patrons over 21.

CineBistro, which opened in the Groves at Wesley Chapel at September, will resurrect the Sunrise Theater at Old Hyde Park Village in Tampa by June.

Meantime, in a move that might haunt the struggling Muvico 20 in St. Petersburg's troubled BayWalk, the owners of Tyrone Square Mall still want a theater of their own.

The mall last week secured a three-year extension for its city approval of a 12-screen theater and landmark restaurant in an unused northwest corner of the parking lot. The mall has been negotiating with AMC Theaters.

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8252.

Businesses get a ride on NFL's fast track 12/08/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 8:33pm]

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