NORTH HYDE PARK — Jalal Khatib doesn't need to be told about the rising popularity of Ultimate Fighting. His new 6,000-square-foot martial arts studio is all the proof he needs.
In two years of operation, the Khanomtom Muay Thai studio owned by Khatib and lead instructor Ray Cole has needed to expand from a tiny 400-square-foot space in a warehouse to a 2,000-square-foot facility and, finally last month, to the exponentially larger building at 808 N Howard Ave.
Khatib describes Muay Thai as "one of the most aggressive martial arts." It is used heavily on the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the mixed martial arts series that has gained a loyal audience in more than a decade on cable and pay-per-view.
"More and more people are walking through our doors after watching it," Khatib said. "When you see them punching, kicking, kneeing and elbowing each other, that's what we teach."
Muay Thai originated in Thailand as an essential part of military defense. Each year, Cole has taken a group to Thailand for a month of Muay Thai training.
Khanomtom Muay Thai offers evening classes Monday through Friday and Saturday afternoons, but will soon add weekday classes, Khatib said.
The new studio is designed to accommodate beginners to professional fighters.
The studio started off as a fighter's gym, but "we have seriously revamped our offerings to make it more appealing for the average person to (use to) stay in shape," Khatib said.
For more information, go to tampamuaythai.com.
No go for SoHo (pizza)
Calling a new restaurant any version of "SoHo Pizza" doesn't seem to be a good plan these days for folks trying to hawk pies in South Tampa.
Two pizza restaurants whose names contain the phrase have come and gone within eight months. First it was the short-lived SoHo Pizza on Howard and Morrison avenues. Now it's the SoHo Pizza Joint, which opened at 1818 W Platt St. in October and recently closed "due to unforeseen circumstances," according to its voice mail message.
The restaurant is controlled by Tommy Ortiz, SoHo restaurant and bar owner who runs the Hyde Park Cafe, Cheap and the new "the Kennedy" at 2408 W Kennedy Blvd.
Ortiz could not be reached for comment, but Hyde Park Cafe spokeswoman Larissa Rydin said the SoHo Pizza Joint "is closed temporarily" and should reopen soon, possibly under a new partnership.
A new Sports City
After running their sports apparel business for several years in Pinellas County, Rob and Donna Wolfe recently decided the Tampa market was too good to pass up.
They opened their Sports City location in Channelside this month so they could take advantage of Tampa's role as host of the 2008 Women's Final Four and Super Bowl XLIII in February.
But Rob Wolfe said he also is looking forward to a steady stream of cruise line customers.
"The Carnival ships dock three or four times a week," he said. "With the economy as rough as it is in Florida, it's good to take advantage of tourism."
Wolfe's 1,000-square-foot storefront is on Channelside Drive, next to the Florida Aquarium.
Sports City's inventory focuses heavily on Bucs and Lightning apparel, but Yankees and Red Sox items also are top sellers.
Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 to 9 Friday and Saturday, and 9 to 5 Sunday.
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