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Erin Sullivan, Times Staff Writer

Erin Sullivan

Erin Sullivan covers business in Hillsborough County. She came to the Times in 2006 and previously covered crime, courts and breaking news in Pasco County. Sullivan grew up in Alliance, Ohio, and attended the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. During college, she also studied at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, Denmark. After graduating from OU in 2000, she was a Pulliam Fellow at the Indianapolis Star and then worked for the Associated Press in London on a foreign correspondence fellowship. Upon returning to the United States in late 2001, she worked at the Birmingham Post-Herald in Birmingham, Ala., the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn., and the Orlando Sentinel, before joining the Times. Sullivan was a finalist for a Livingston Award and, in 2004, was inducted into the Scripps Howard Hall of Fame for writing.

Story ideas are welcomed and sincerely appreciated. Give her a call or send an email.

Phone: (813) 226-3405


Twitter: @EASullivan

  1. Family 'fudge sauce' Maison de Nora makes a comeback

    Human Interest

    Editor's Note: Maison de Nora fudge sauce is $12 a jar and the fudge cookies are $12 for a dozen (at least 10 oz.) Send a message to or call (813) 220-5666 to place orders and to arrange either local pick up, delivery or shipment. It is not currently available at Oxford Exchange.


    From a kitchen north of Tampa, a once-famous fudge sauce is making a comeback....

    Jill Stilton said she is taking orders for her grandmother’s recipe fudge cookies and sauce, which New York Magazine described as “silky and smooth, with a genteel, rich, bittersweet flavor.”
  2. For this group of craft artists, no request is too unusual


    WESTCHASE — After she gets the girls down for a nap, Nickole Kostelis heads to her garage and fires up her power tools.

    She's been doing woodworking since high school, but until recently it had been a hobby for the stay-at-home mom of three young daughters. About four months ago, she found a group on Facebook called Made by Mama, which was created as a way for Tampa Bay artists to sell their handcrafted goods. Kostelis joined. She called herself Mom With a Saw and posted her work. Old cribs and bed frames transformed into cool benches. Rustic wall hangers. Signs for newlyweds....

    Kostelis uses the garage in her Westchase home as a workshop space. She has been doing woodworking since high school.
  3. Tampa surrealist photographer creatively connects with families


    TAMPA — She sees them in her dreams, these characters.

    A winged ballerina with Harlequin smudged eyes in an ancient wood.

    A tuxedoed gentleman in a gas mask with a steaming power plant atop his hat.

    A little girl who woke up floating on a bed in the ocean.

    Shimmering, magnificent mermaids.

    Lissa Hatcher always has something close by to capture the visions so they don't slip away: the voice recorder on her phone, her iPad, sketch books. They become real to her. They have names and backstories and personalities. They push her to keep going....

    Lissa Hatcher began taking photos a little more than 10 years ago. Her work will be shown this weekend.
  4. At 100, Hillsborough extension service offers broad services


    Stephen Gran wants you to know there's more to his office than you might think.

    "We're not just for farmers," said Gran, director of the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences extension office in Hillsborough County. That's the county extension, for short.

    The agency celebrates its 100th anniversary this year and, although it began with farming and food preservation, the service has evolved as the county became more developed....

    A crowd gathered for a cooking demonstration held by the Hillsborough County Extension Service, circa 1930. 
  5. HCC, USF join forces to help nursing students earn their degrees


    TAMPA — Nearly three years ago, Jamie Kaleo's father had a heart attack. Her healthy-living, clean-eating, marathon-running dad suddenly needed a triple bypass operation. It was terrifying. But something monumental happened as she sat with him in the cardiac intensive care unit at St. Joseph's Hospital. Kaleo, a personal trainer, watched the nurses taking care of her dad. They were wonderful. I want to do this, she thought....

  6. Renamed Hillsborough Fire Rescue station adds to firefighter's memory


    Iran David "I.D." Rivers was a bear of a man with a buzz cut, a thick reddish mustache and a cheery disposition who hugged so fiercely he lifted people up, their legs swinging. He seemed to make friends everywhere. Things like grocery shopping took him quite a while.

    It has been a year since he died, but the loss still feels fresh and raw at the fire station where he spent much of his life, tough men and women blinking back tears, fighting to control their voices. Rivers, a Hillsborough County firefighter and emergency medical technician for 24 years, died from a heart attack while on duty on Sept. 22, 2013. He was 48....

     Sharri Dufrense, left, hugs Linda Hall, right, after a dedication and renaming ceremony of Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Station No. 6 in honor of Iran David "I.D." Rivers.  The firefighter was on duty at Station 6 when he passed away of natural causes on Sept. 22, 2013.
  7. USF public health college's new mission: Help others help themselves


    TAMPA — Infectious diseases can be terrifying. Ebola. HIV/AIDS.

    But in the United States, you aren't likely to die from one. Here, the usual killers are noncommunicable diseases: cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease, diabetes. They account for 88 percent of deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

    "More people are dying from heart attacks than from yellow fever," said Linda Whiteford, a University of South Florida anthropology professor recently tapped to help lead a center focused on fighting these diseases....

  8. A grand social experiment, the Oxford Exchange turns 1



    The crabs sold. • Allison Adams couldn't believe it. The crabs, dead for more than a century, if not quite a bit more, had been displayed in glass cases and shown in a French museum before being sold from collector to collector and ending up at a market in Paris, where Adams bought them early this year for her shop inside the Oxford Exchange. She thought the crabs were odd and beautiful and, after a lengthy holdup in Customs, where a French expert had to be hired to officially name the various crab species and declare that, yes, the crabs were definitely dead, they arrived. • Within weeks, nearly all of the 10 cases of crabs were bought. • At $1,000 a piece. • "I never thought they would sell," said Adams, 43, director of the Oxford Exchange, a grand, sweeping mixed-use business and social experiment created by Adams and her brother, Blake Casper, 40, that is celebrating its first anniversary Tuesday....

    Blake Casper envisioned a gathering spot and a name for it, and then happened upon two buildings for sale in 2010. “It took a lot of iterations … before it got to where you see it today.”
  9. Experts on homeless issues to address Hillsborough panel


    TAMPA — Two national experts focused on finding solutions for homeless issues are speaking Tuesday morning at the University Club of Tampa to local leaders who are working to fight the problem here.

    The speakers are:

    •Philip F. Mangano, president and chief executive officer of the American Round Table to Abolish Homelessness in Boston. He previously served under President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama as executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness....

  10. A weight loss success story turns into a career



    After her older sister died from breast cancer in 2004, Kat Ward consoled herself with food. To honor her sister, Ward left the hotel business and got a job with the American Cancer Society, intense and meaningful work she enjoyed. But she lived on drive-through fast food. Her weight ballooned from 160 pounds to 235. She tried diets, but nothing seemed to work.

    Then on Sept. 7, 2008, at age 24, Ward woke with this strange feeling. She doesn't know why. There was no trigger; no photo she saw of herself, no cruel remark about her weight. ...

    Kathleen Ward, 30, lost more than 100 pounds after deciding to get fit. Last November she participated in the Ironman Florida in Panama City — a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a full marathon of 26.2 miles. Today she helps others reach their fitness dreams. 
  11. Plant City's Red Rose Inn sold at auction — or was it?


    LAKELAND — Sean Strano hovered outside a conference room at the Lakeland Center, his business cards in hand. Like everyone else packed in the hallway, he wanted to know who bought the Red Rose Inn, the beloved hotel in Plant City known for its kitschy commercials, doo wop dances and Gone With the Wind-themed decor.

    It hit the auction block Friday, the second day of a bankruptcy liquidation sale of the assets of the Madonia family, who spent more than a half-century building a fortune in the tomato farming business, only to see it all slip away. ...

    The Plant City hotel among assets of the Madonia family being auctioned to pay creditors. Its fate remained uncertain Friday.
  12. Red Rose Inn a symbol of an empire's collapse



    How did it come to this?

    Evelyn and Batista Madonia worked for more than a half-century building their fortune. They are known for the Red Rose Inn, a Plant City landmark, but the real money, millions upon millions, was made in tomato farming.

    They had 10,000 acres in Florida and Virginia and employed 1,000 workers. Their assets are vast: housing camps and luxury homes here and up north for the workers and executives, packing and storage facilities, millions of tomato stakes. And the equipment, anything imaginable to run a huge operation: $200,000 tractors, sprayers, forklifts, pickups, semis, golf carts....

    The Red Rose Inn & Suites in Plant City, which closed last year, is one of the more obvious assets of Evelyn and Batista Madonia that will be auctioned. The Madonias, in their 70s, are in bankruptcy.
  13. UT entrepreneurship director helps students capitalize on dreams

    Human Interest

    Rebecca White was an early champion of entrepreneurship studies, which is now one of the fastest-growing majors on college campuses. White, 56, helped create the entrepreneurship center at Northern Kentucky University before coming to the University of Tampa in 2009. Since she became director of UT's Entrepreneurship Center, the number of students majoring in entrepreneurship has doubled. "We are building an entrepreneurial community," White said. ...

    Rebecca White helps UT students capitalize on their dreams as director of the Entrepreneurship Center. Her passionately creative mother inspired her, and she in turn wanted to be a role model to her children as she pursued a Ph.D while juggling family life.
  14. Front lines of the future? Business owners age 30 and younger


    BY ERIN SULLIVAN | Times Staff Writer

    Welcome to the entrepreneurial generation.

    They are young, creative and adaptable. Experts say they grew up with parents telling them they could do anything only to experience the depth of economic lows with the recession. They have mountains of student loan debt and scarce job prospects. They've learned loyalty is overrated, witnessing hardworking people laid off after 25 years, feeling lost, betrayed, forced to start over....

    Guido Maniscalco grew up around his grandfather’s Tampa jewelry store, where he now has a showroom and repair shop to complement his online vintage watch business.
  15. Don't feel guilty about lavishing your dog — it's evolution


    We are playing right into their paws, their cute, strangely irresistible paws.

    As a society, we are spending more on pets than ever, an estimated $55.5 billion in America this year, with dogs getting the largest share. More than 78 million dogs live in 46.3 million households in America and that number is rising. Floridians are particularly crazy about dogs, with ownership in the Sunshine State increasing 42 percent from 2006 to 2013, jumping from 1.9 million dog-owning households to 2.7 million. ...

    Dogs are welcome inside Downtown Dogs in Hyde Park Village in South Tampa. The store sells toys, dog car seats, organic dog food, decorated leashes and more.