Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Business

Tarpon Springs businesses revel in early tourist influx for Epiphany

TARPON SPRINGS — It's hard to say exactly what's causing the early influx of tourists into Epiphany City this year.

An early blizzard up north that sent snowbirds scurrying for their suitcases? A sign that the sluggish economy is finally on the mend?

Whatever the reason, business owners said they expect a huge turnout for today's 106th Tarpon Springs Epiphany celebration, because the number of tourists in town is up.

"Season always starts in January, but this year people are coming from before Christmas. People from Virginia, New York, all over. This is good for us," said Sunbay Motel owner Peter Fanoudis. "It's much better than last year."

Sue Thomas, president of the Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce, said Epiphany provides the local economy with a "wonderful" boost. She said parking lots around the city have been "packed" since last week.

"When we have something like that, we pull people from everywhere and that does us a world of good," Thomas said. "Even if people don't go shopping or use the restaurants, at least they're remembering that we're here and we're hoping that'll stick in their minds and they'll come back."

Epiphany organizers and local merchants have also benefitted from an additional 300 visitors from Ohio, New York, the District of Columbia, Indiana and elsewhere who are attending the second annual Pan-Kalymnian Federation of America convention in Tarpon Springs.

The convention — pegged as part family reunion, part business trip — began Thursday and ends Sunday. Events include meetings with Tarpon's sister city committee and with St. Petersburg College to flesh out a student exchange partnership that will allow local residents to stay with residents of the Greek island of Kalymnos while they study abroad, said Tarpon Springs Vice Mayor Chris Alahouzos.

Kalymnos Mayor Dimitris Diakomichalis couldn't attend, but a representative, Drosos Tavlarios, has come in his place, Alahouzos said. There's a large convention banquet planned at the Spanos Pappas Community Center on Saturday night.

An estimated 3,000 people already living in Tarpon — including the Epiphany dove bearers this year and last — are of Kalymnian descent, according to Kalymnian Society of Tarpon Springs member Irene Karavokiros.

"It's a nice thing because people who come for the convention will be able to be part of the Epiphany celebration," Karavokiros said. The out-of-town Kalymnians also "get to see one of their own out there in the spotlight."

Alahouzos said he hopes those drawn to the city for Epiphany and the convention will like what they see so much they'll make Tarpon Springs a regular vacation spot. He said restaurant owners were reporting an "extremely busy" week.

Mike "Sfeeka" Koursiotis, owner of the Original Mama Maria's on Alt. U.S. 19, was buzzing around town Thursday in final preparation for what he expects to be a hectic weekend. Haircut? Check. Extra plates, glasses and silverware from the restaurant supply store? Check. Greek Bouzouki player scheduled for Saturday night? Check.

Koursiotis said he thinks the uptick in visitors this year may be a sign the economy is rebounding.

"Epiphany is what brings us into season, though this year was different. It was busier in December, so it was an early kickoff to season," he said. "Every other car out there is an out-of-state plate."

Tarpon Springs Mayor David Archie said the Epiphany celebration, steeped in religious and historical significance, brings national and international attention to Tarpon Springs that can potentially draw visitors at other times of the year.

He added that today's promising weather forecast — with temperatures expected to be in the upper 60s to low 70s, with low humidity — could bode well for the number of people attending services at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral and the cross dive in Spring Bayou.

Normally, he said, the city expects about 25,000 to attend.

"We'd like to have a lot more than that," he said, "and hopefully people can see some of the changes that we have made in our city and then desire to come back when they have time to really look at some of the sites we have here."

Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.

Comments
Lee Roy Selmon’s original Tampa restaurant is closing, marking the end of an era

Lee Roy Selmon’s original Tampa restaurant is closing, marking the end of an era

Lee Roy Selmon’s, the restaurant that paid homage to the community icon who rose to fame as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer and grew to become a popular civic leader, will shutter the doors of its original location on Tampa’s Boy Scout Boulevard in June.Employ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
At Bay 3, developers of Tampa’s Armature Works transform old industrial space into new co-work offices

At Bay 3, developers of Tampa’s Armature Works transform old industrial space into new co-work offices

TAMPA — The name of the new Bay 3 co-working space at the Armature Works goes back to World War I, when the red-brick warehouse overlooking the Hillsborough River was the maintenance barn for Tampa Electric’s streetcar system.As the name suggests, it...
Updated: 3 hours ago
New restaurants on the horizon: Metro Diner and Zoes Kitchen in Tampa, Trophy Fish and Oak & Stone in St. Pete

New restaurants on the horizon: Metro Diner and Zoes Kitchen in Tampa, Trophy Fish and Oak & Stone in St. Pete

OPEN NOW: BAHAMA BUCK’SFeel a shiver? Just in time for Florida’s sultry summer, Bahama Buck’s opened this week in Trinity with an avalanche of sno. The 2,346-square-foot island-inspired shop opened at 8815 Mitchell Blvd. with more than 91 flavors of ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Comcast may outbid Disney for Twenty-First Century Fox

Comcast may outbid Disney for Twenty-First Century Fox

Associated PressPHILADELPHIA — Comcast may make an offer for Twenty-First Century Fox, potentially putting it in a head-to-head bidding war with Disney. Comcast Corp. on Wednesday did not provide specific details on a bid, other than to say that it w...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Brunch-based alcohol will be available at First Watch’s new Orlando location

Brunch-based alcohol will be available at First Watch’s new Orlando location

ORLANDO — The popular breakfast and brunch chain First Watch will be opening a new restaurant in Orlando that will add cocktails, beer and wine to the menu. The new concept restaurant, set to open on Memorial Day at 1448 N Alafaya Trail, will be 1,00...
Updated: 4 hours ago
St. Petersburg’s Jabil expands in Israel with new innovation center

St. Petersburg’s Jabil expands in Israel with new innovation center

St. Petersburg-based contract electronics company Jabil announced Wednesday it has expanded in Israel by opening an Optics Technology Innovation Center.The 2,000-sqaure-foot complex is in Haifa, Israel’s third-largest city. "Our Optics Innovation Cen...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Humana hiring 100 for phone sales, Medicare enrollment assistance

Humana hiring 100 for phone sales, Medicare enrollment assistance

Kentucky-based health care provider Humana is hiring 100 phone sales employees in Tampa Bay. The new hires will field sales calls and offer enrollment assistance for Humana’s Medicare plans and other products.The positions, which are being added to h...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Downtown St. Pete Ford’s Garage and Yeoman’s to open Wednesday

Downtown St. Pete Ford’s Garage and Yeoman’s to open Wednesday

ST. PETERSBURG — Ford’s Garage, a car junkie’s haven, has proven to be popular eatery across the state.Now it has a chance to drive customers to its seats in St. Petersburg. The restaurant opens its ninth location downtown Wednesday at 200 First Ave....
Updated: 5 hours ago
Target: New Tampa, Clearwater stores part of company-wide makeovers

Target: New Tampa, Clearwater stores part of company-wide makeovers

Target is renovating more than 1,000 stores by the end of 2020, including two SuperTarget locations in New Tampa and Clearwater.The Clearwater store’s makeover — which the corporation calls ‘‘reimagining" — just wrapped up, according to Target spoke...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Many Americans still cannot afford a $400 set back

Many Americans still cannot afford a $400 set back

Could you pay an unexpected $400 expense?More than four in 10 Americans said they couldn’t without borrowing money or selling something, according to the Federal Reserve’s Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households released Tuesday.That’s a...
Published: 05/22/18