TAMPA — Getting to know Carl Cronan — at least feeling as if you had known him for years — was easy. The veteran business journalist, who reported on important trends for several local publications, most recently as Tampa Bay editor of the Gulf Coast Business Review, built a large body of well-read work on the relationships he established.
St. Petersburg Times business columnist Robert Trigaux recently included Mr. Cronan's name among 20 who had made "strong marks" on the Tampa Bay business landscape. Before his most recent position, Mr. Cronan worked for the Lakeland Ledger, followed by nine years at the Tampa Bay Business Journal.
Mr. Cronan, who gained his business expertise through dogged work and Southern charm, died June 15 of colon cancer. He was 47.
He covered commercial real estate for the Gulf Coast Business Review, but also profiled entrepreneurs and new technology companies, making things like mergers and buyouts seem understandable to everyday consumers while keeping the business community informed.
He didn't just tell stories, he spotted trends.
"He was very intuitive in that he made sure the facts were accurate, that he made sure what the trends were in any particular market, and that he knew the right people to talk to because of the way he approached people personally," said David Sobelman, executive vice president of Calkain Cos., a commercial real estate firm.
A Birmingham, Ala., native with the drawl to prove it, Mr. Cronan attended the University of Alabama with plans to become an electrical engineer.
If he'd had his druthers, he'd have played guitar for a living. "But there's no money in that unless your last name is Clapton or Mayer," he wrote on his Facebook page.
Instead, he switched his major to journalism and wrote for the student newspaper, the Crimson White. He started his career at a small newspaper in Cartersville, Ga.; followed by the Decatur (Ala.) Daily in the mid 1980s, and eight years at the Florence, Ala., Times Daily.
Always, he left a personal stamp on colleagues like Suzy Fleming Leonard, once a fellow reporter at the Decatur Daily.
"He had this little way where he would cock his eyebrow up and look at you with this sly little look," said Leonard, who is now the features editor for Florida Today. "It meant that he was about to hit you with some kind of zinger."
Mr. Cronan moved to Florida and worked for the Ledger. In 1998 he signed on at the Tampa Bay Business Journal, where he became editor of commercial real estate. He was a one-man factory, often churning out several substance-packed stories a week on everything from hiring patterns to the value of waterfront real estate, tourism trends and what the major retailers were up to.
"He developed strong relationships because he completed what he committed to doing," said Alexis Muellner, the Tampa Bay Business Journal's editor. "It certainly made my life a lot easier."
Business leaders grew to trust him. "In all the years I worked with Carl, I never once felt that he had an alternative agenda," Sobelman said. "I was always comfortable giving him the inside story of any event we were working on."
He married former business writer (and fellow Alabama alum) Roselle Zayas in 2006, the first marriage for each. Later, he cheered her on while she earned two master's degrees in business fields.
In 2007, Mr. Cronan left to become the editor of Real Estate Florida, but the fledgling magazine folded after two years. He joined Gulf Coast Business Review last year, and won an award this year for business writing from the Florida Press Association.
In his free time, Mr. Cronan played in a rock band that met in Plant City. He continued playing with a group recently known as Midnight Mojo, even after the cancer slowed him down, and was working up to the day before he died.
Mourners were asked to wear 'Bama's crimson and white to his funeral service on Thursday at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. Meanwhile, dozens of Facebook posts had people from childhood, the Decatur Daily, the Ledger and the Tampa Bay Business Journal all logging on to remember a stalwart friend who died too soon.
"I'm grateful to have had him for as long as I did," said Roselle Cronan.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or firstname.lastname@example.org.