BRANDON — Tom Traxler was like many soccer dads when it came to searching for just the right cleats to outfit his youth-league son.
He drove all over his Orlando hometown visiting various shoe stores and even considered online purchases.
A former player and coach who spent 1989-1993 as the equipment manager for the Tampa Bay Rowdies and went on to become director of coaching for FC America, the premier soccer club in Central Florida, Traxler became frustrated by his perceived lack of options. So he shared his dissatisfaction with friends Scott Bates and Gary Davis, who also had sons playing in the same club.
"As most cool things seem to come about, we discussed it over wings and beer after training," said Traxler, 46.
The three agreed to create their own solution, so in 2006 they invested $1 million and opened United World Soccer in an Orlando mall. The brand later expanded to Clearwater. In May, they will open a third location at Westfield Brandon mall while also concurrently opening an outlet in Downtown Disney.
United World Soccer signed a three-year lease opening a store near Sears that is just shy of 4,000 square feet in a location that formerly housed an arcade. Traxler, Bates, a senior partner with Morgan and Morgan PA, and Davis, a pioneer behind Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hollywood, have created a business model that surpasses basic brick and mortar sales.
"We love our retail location to be interactive," he said. "We want to immerse you in soccer culture. We just don't want to sell you a shirt on the wall."
To execute on that plan, Traxler said a pair of video game stations will be available for shoppers to play FIFA soccer and big televisions will show professional games. As a Rowdies sponsor, fans also can purchase game tickets and be part of pep rallies at the store.
As for the store's main staple, customers will find synthetic and leather boots from Adidas, Nike and Puma, including the kangaroo leather that is growing in popularity, as well as clothing and accessories. Traxler said UWS wants to specialize in equipment for goal keepers, including the Tony Meola brand gloves.
The emerging Warrior Sports brand that outfits Liverpool FC of the English Premier League also will be available for purchase.
New gelato store at Westfield Brandon
Papalani Gelato, a Hawaiian-based business, is now serving hand-crafted artisanal gelato, coffees and chocolates between center court and Macy's at Westfield Brandon. This is the second location in the continental United States after the company brought its first mainland location to Temple Terrace in September.
According to its website, Papalani Gelato plans to expand with franchises throughout Florida. It makes gelato in the traditional Italian style with exotic flavors inspired from Hawaii. The kiosk also offers organic, Hawaiian espresso and blended coffee beverages along with sorbetto and frozen yogurt.
See the complete menu and more at papalanigelato.com.
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