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Graeter's ice cream, a Cincinnati favorite, debuts in Tampa Bay area

Cincinnati-based Graeter's ice cream is betting that its cultlike following will spread as it debuts in Tampa Bay supermarkets.

"We were a super premium brand long before Haagen-Dazs came along," said Richard Graeter, the fourth generation to head his family's 142-year-old confectioner. "Our top-selling black raspberry chocolate, for instance, is our newest flavor. We've made it for 25 years."

Just rolled out at Publix and Fresh Market, Graeter's hits Winn-Dixie next month.

The chain creates its own pastries, boxed chocolates and ice cream from scratch for its 34 stores in the Cincinnati area. After doubling packing capacity, Graeter's is letting more cities in on the ice cream.

As a super premium ice cream, it's high in milk fat — 14 to 18 percent. It's made in two-gallon batches and sold only by the pint. While most dairies pump air into their ice creams to increase volume up to 50 percent, Graeter's is hand-packed. A pint comes close to a full pound.

Whether Graeter's finds enough followers in Florida is another matter. At $5.39 a pint, it's more than a buck pricier than rivals Ben & Jerry's or Haagen-Dazs. It's inheriting shelf space vacated by Dove pints, which just failed as local grocers' third super premium.

However, it is hard to quibble over Graeter's loyal following, which includes Madonna and Oprah Winfrey. About 140,000 mail-order fans fork over $80 to $100 for six to eight pints shipped in a fashion similar to the way Omaha Steaks are delivered. The top address for Graeter's mail orders has been Florida.

Graeter's amassed 150,000 Facebook friends (A fan started the site, but the company runs it now). A primary lure is becoming a "Fanbassador" that the company showers with free coupons for ice cream socials that might convert friends.

They're putting the band back together. The folks who drove furniture seller Robb & Stucky into liquidation last year are back in business, reports the Fort Myers News-Press. Two former principals, Clive and Dan Lubner, recently opened Clive Daniel Home in Naples. Meantime, Samson Holding, a Chinese manufacturer that bought the Robb & Stucky name, opens its first furniture store under that name in Fort Myers on Thursday.

Going, going . . . The last remnants of Tampa-based Sports Fan-Attic are vanishing at its 37 stores full of college and pro fan wear. Genesco Inc., which bought the chain in 2009 and runs Lids and Hat World ball cap shops, changes store marquees to Lids Locker Room as they remodel.

It's a Dell, dude. Computer makers have a renewed interest in malls after watching the stratospheric sales racked up by Apple Stores.

Microsoft has opened 14 of 75 planned Microsoft Stores (the closest is in Atlanta), stocking everything from Acer PCs to Xbox. Now, Dell Inc. staffs kiosks in four bay area malls, including Westfield Brandon, Citrus Park and Countryside.

The biggest is a Dell Lounge at center court in International Plaza in Tampa that offers easy chairs and test rides on a selection of eight desktops and laptops, plus tablets and Android phones. Salespeople walk shoppers through Dell's build-your-own-computer exercise.

Some products are kept onsite, but most orders are emailed to Dell.

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

Graeter's ice cream, a Cincinnati favorite, debuts in Tampa Bay area 01/09/12 [Last modified: Monday, January 9, 2012 8:59pm]
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