CLEARWATER — Hulk Hogan is a semiretired pro wrestler, a onetime movie star, a reality TV personality, a published author, a divorced dad, an icon, a brand and a tabloid headline.
Today, he becomes something else: a store owner. He's opening a place called Hogan's Beach Shop, smack in the middle of Clearwater Beach's tourist district.
The place is a shrine to Hulkamania. It sells T-shirts, DVDs, autographed posters and memorabilia spanning his three-decade career.
The small retail outlet is on the ground floor of the Pelican Walk shopping center at 483 Mandalay Ave., in a spot meant to capture plenty of foot traffic. Its grand opening is this morning.
The Hulkster and Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos will be on hand for a ribbon-cutting at 10 a.m. Starting at 11, Hogan will be doing private meet-and-greets, but you'll have to pay $100 to get time alone in his presence.
Hogan, whose birth name is Terry Bollea, couldn't find time for an interview with the Tampa Bay Times this week. His store manager and business partner, Miami native Ron Howard, has been working to get the business ready and is pumped up about today's opening.
"I'm a friend of Terry's. I'm trying to do the best I can for this to succeed," Howard said. "I want to see him have his own place here. He deserves it. Hopefully, this is the first of many stores."
Hogan, 59, grew up in the Tampa Bay area, attended the University of South Florida, and has lived around Clearwater for a couple of decades. He owns a beachfront mansion not far from his new shop.
Inside the store, highlights from his wrestling matches play continuously on four flat-screen TVs mounted high on the bright red and yellow walls. Since the store also sells beach gear, the overall effect can be a little odd. The other day, a family of Nebraska tourists was perusing shelves full of flip-flops and Panama Jack hats as the Hulk body-slammed the Iron Sheik on a screen just above their heads.
Beachgoers who wander into the store will find a veritable Hulk Hogan museum. They'll be greeted by framed posters of the proprietor flexing his famous biceps or tearing another yellow T-shirt off his body — always with the bandanna, the handlebar mustache, and the occasional feather boa.
Most of the store's merchandise consists of T-shirts that say "Hulkamania" or "Hogan's Beach" or "Thunderlips, the Ultimate Male" — a nod to Hogan's role in Rocky III, the 1982 film that catapulted him into the spotlight.
The shelves offer DVDs of Suburban Commando, Mr. Nanny and Wrestlemania III, not to mention hardcover copies of his autobiography, My Life Outside the Ring.
The book details his battle to overcome depression and suicidal thoughts when his life collapsed into turmoil five years ago. That's when his son caused a car crash that left a friend with severe brain injuries. Then Hogan's wife divorced him, getting 70 percent of their assets. Wrestling injuries and back, knee and hip surgeries have taken their toll as well.
"I'm reading that book for the third time. It inspired me. It was very motivating, what he went through in life," said Mark Reisner, a fan who dropped in to check out the store during its soft opening this week.
Reisner is a 60-year-old retired police officer from Massachusetts who lives in Tarpon Springs. He was planning to buy a Hulk Hogan poster for his home gym.
"It's kind of nice to have a celebrity in the area, especially one with his story."
Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.