BRANDON — The city's beloved pink pachyderm is looking for new land to roam.
The popular local landmark that has stood in the grass off Brandon Boulevard since 1974 is up for auction.
Paula Yambor, who owns the land at 1350 W Brandon Blvd. where Shelton's Nursery, Gazebos and Spas operated for 32 years until closing at the end of 2004, said it's finally time to set her iconic statues free.
She's selling the elephant statue and its counterpart, George Washington riding a purple camel.
"I love looking at them," said Yambor, who hopes another Brandon business will win the bid. "It's just time."
The statues stand as community icons and have grown in lore over the years. While local residents have compiled memories, scrapbooks and even a YouTube video of a night time "hunt," for the herbivorous elephant best known for helping to sell flora, Yambor tells many fond stories of her own.
She said the elephant made an appearance on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and it was used as a spotter for MacDill Air Force Base. But the story of how "pinkie" came to be stands out for her.
According to lore, the pink elephant and camel were part of a "moonshine menagerie" that originally included a giraffe. The trio of zoo animals were made hollow in effort to conceal alcohol during the prohibition years from 1920 to 1933.
Yambor's late husband, Arthur, who operated the nursery until succumbing to leukemia in February 2004, requested them as payment after helping the original owner move the giraffe from a bar on U.S. 301 to Bell Shoals road. Arthur used a boom truck to move the cement sculptures since the elephant alone weighs approximately one ton and can fit two adults inside.
In 1997, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the nursery, the Yambors decided to paint the elephant silver. Local residents objected with such vigor that it quickly returned to pink.
In autumn of 2004, George Washington was painted powder-blue with a bright white wig, and his camel turned raspberry. Currently, Mr. President dons a yellow outfit atop a purple camel and the elephant also was retouched this summer with a pink carnation hue.
"They got some new clothes for their departure," said Paula, who consults with her children, Arthur Andrew and Marjorie, on what's best for the mini monuments.
After selling part of the land to Dunkin' Donuts in 1994, the Yambors have had the rest of the land up for sale for years. They don't want a potential tenant to deal with the animals.
Yambor said her husband once turned down a $5,000 offer for the pink elephant, saying he would keep it until he shut the business.
"He kept his word and I kept his word for another nine years," she said.
Yambor, a retired English teacher who taught in college for 20 years — including at University of South Florida and Hillsborough Community College, and 15 years of eighth grade in Hillsborough County — calls herself a "very honest" person. So when bidders call her to make offers on the statues, she will tell them exactly where the highest bid stands.
Bids for the elephant and camel will need to exceed $1,100 and $500, respectively and she said she would accept incremental raises as low as a quarter.
She also said the elephant is missing a tusk and the camel has a broken tail, but she has both pieces to give to the new owners if they want to repair them.
Finally, Paula offered one last parting idea for the pachyderm. If a cat named Stubbs can be mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska, for more than a decade, why can't a pink elephant be honorary mayor of Brandon?
Phone bids for cash-and-carry sales of the elephant and camel can be entered by calling (813) 689-6124 until the middle of July, when the highest bidder will be announced.
Eric Vician can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.