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Harbor Freight Tools cheap, good for simple household jobs

I have a strange soft spot for wrenches.

As a little kid my dad, a piping contractor, used to tell me to fall asleep by counting pipe wrenches, not sheep. On weekends, my brother and I would play hide and seek around dad's shop, crouching down between bins of wrenches, couplings and other tools of his trade.

So when Harbor Freight Tools opened its second location in Tampa a few weeks ago, my blue-collar inner child said I should check it out.

A discount hardware chain, Harbor Freight has six stores in the Tampa Bay area and more than 430 nationwide. Based in California, it has been around since 1977 but is on a major expansion tear and recently made the news when hackers tapped into some credit card transactions done at the stores.

The stores carry more than 7,000 items, from hand and power tools to shop equipment and do-it-yourself household goods. Stores have the look and feel of a bargain auto parts store, right down to the oily, mechanic shop smell that, admittedly, I don't mind.

The area's newest Harbor Freight opened in Town 'N Country's Buccaneer Square shopping center at Hillsborough Avenue and Sheldon Road. It shares the plaza with fellow discounters Aldi and HSN Outlet and is around the corner from the Home Depot, which says a lot about the store's confidence.

So how cheap are the tools? And, more importantly, is the place worth the separate trip for a paintbrush, cordless drill or measuring tape?

My answer depends on your relationship with tools. If your livelihood depends on the sheer strength of a screwdriver, then maybe not. Said one customer's review of Harbor Freight's Pittsburgh brand torque wrench on Amazon: "Yes, it may last a lifetime, or it may break tomorrow.''

But if you're like me and use a wrench on occasion to take the training wheels off your kid's bike or tighten a leaky pipe under your kitchen sink, then Harbor Freight might be a good bet. And, if you do happen to morph into the Incredible Hulk and break off the head of a hammer, the store will replace it for free.

A sampling of items shows you can get some decent deals. A three-pack of 9-inch paint roller covers costs $3.49, for example, compared with $8.34 at Home Depot.

Other things aren't such a bargain, like a 12-yard roll of Gorilla tape for $9.99, which sells for $4.97 at Home Depot.

But factor in sales and coupons, and seldom should you have to pay full price. Harbor Freight runs fliers in a lot of newspapers, including this one, and coupons in the Valpak mailers.

Gotta say, a 4-piece wrench set seemed pretty dreamy for $10.99, and that was before my 20 percent off coupon.

We may have lost Pinkberry yogurt in Tampa but we're gaining Yumz Gourmet Frozen Yogurt. The self-serve frozen yogurt chain is expanding to Florida with a new location opening mid September at 17693 N Dale Mabry Highway in Lutz.

The store has a rotating selection of 50 flavors and topping choices and is owned by the Cintron family, the same folks who run the Mr. Empanada restaurant next door. Yumz has nine locations in Illinois and one in Indiana, with plans for other stores in California and Wisconsin.

Nike Yardline, a store devoted to football gear and apparel, is opening at WestShore Plaza in time for the 2013 holiday shopping season. It will be located inside a new Champs Sports opening in the former Republic of Couture near Macy's.

Between these stores and Dick's Sporting Goods coming next year in the old Saks, WestShore is shaping up to be a mini hub for all things sports. The mall already has a Lids store and Lids Locker Room (renamed from Sports Fan Attic). And, across the street, there's a Sports Authority, which recently finished a major renovation.

Susan Thurston can be reached at sthurston@tampabay.com or (813) 225-3110. Follow her on Twitter at @susan_thurston.

Harbor Freight Tools cheap, good for simple household jobs 08/26/13 [Last modified: Monday, August 26, 2013 4:29pm]

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