I finally did it.
A few months after Target announced that criminals had stolen credit and debit card data from millions of customers, I decided to ditch my debit REDcard, which is tied to my bank account.
Like a lot of holiday shoppers, I had swiped my REDcard at a store between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, when the breach occurred, so I was at risk. Fortunately, no one used my card illegally, but I didn't want to take any chances....
TAMPA — The Florida Aquarium, an attraction known for its stingrays, sharks and other sea creatures, is getting further into the mammal business.
The aquarium has created a new exhibit area devoted to ring-tailed lemurs and other animals native to Madagascar, an African island country where 80 percent of the plants and animals are found nowhere else in the world.
Clearly, the lemurs are the stars of Journey to Madagascar, which opens Saturday. But also appealing — or unappealing as the case may be — are the hissing cockroaches. The display has a "pop up" feature where guests can crawl inside and get face to face with the bugs — thankfully, from behind glass. To add to the creep factor, an audio recording plays the roaches' hissing sound....
TAMPA — For anyone with relatives coming to town for a week, here's something new to keep them busy.
CityPASS is a prepaid ticket booklet that offers discounted admission to several of the area's top attractions: Busch Gardens, the Florida Aquarium, Lowry Park Zoo and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Buyers also get entry to either the Chihuly Collection or the Museum of Science & Industry....
Bi-Lo Holdings, the parent company of Bi-Lo and Winn-Dixie grocery stores that's buying Sweetbay supermarkets, said it will close 13 stores as part of the deal, including five in the Tampa Bay area.
Bi-Lo said Tuesday it would close eight stores it is acquiring and five of its existing stores because of their proximity to other locations. All of the stores, which are in Florida, South Carolina and Georgia, will close between March 22 and July 12....
It takes me nearly 20 minutes to get from my house in Tampa to the nearest Tijuana Flats in Carrollwood, which explains why I don't go very often. Same goes for Burger 21 and Brass Tap.
If it's not in my back yard, I'm hard-pressed to try it or, even less, become a regular.
That's the challenge facing owners of smaller chain restaurants aggressively trying to expand. When blanketing a market, how do you find suitable locations that maximize your reach?...
TAMPA — For Publix, keeping up with the times — and the competition — means ground buffalo in the butcher shop, floral arrangements by the front door and cafe seating with Wi-Fi.
It also means replacing razors and batteries by the checkout with shiny apples and trail mix, and stocking pastry cases with desserts almost too pretty to eat.
The changes are part of the newly opened Publix supermarket in Carrollwood's Village Center. The center demolished the old store last year to make way for a larger, more modern version that incorporates elements of Publix's GreenWise brand, with its large selection of freshly prepared food and organic items....
TAMPA — Three years after founding Fitlife Foods, a prepared meals takeout store, David Osterweil has brought in new investors to take the business to the next level.
Osterweil said Friday that he has finalized a deal with investors to add locations in the Tampa Bay area and expand to other markets. Terms were not released, but he will retain majority ownership of the Tampa-based company, which has five locations and a sixth planned for Brandon....
Bahram Akradi, CEO of Life Time Fitness, says members of his gyms aren't looking for a smelly room of equipment for sweating out calories. They want a resort-style experience where they can also get a massage at the spa, eat dinner at the cafe and catch up on emails in the lounge.
And they're willing to pay for the exclusivity.
Akradi is bringing the concept to Tampa in a 55,000-square-foot club opening April 10 at International Plaza, in the lower level of a former furniture store. Life Time Athletic will be the second in Florida for the publicly traded chain, which operates 110 gyms under the Life Time Fitness and Life Time Athletic brands and had $1.2 billion in revenue last year....
TAMPA — After a few tough years, area shopping center officials say the outlook for 2014 is better than last year but not by much.
Rising consumer confidence, coupled with a stabilizing home market, have prompted many retailers to expand more aggressively, especially restaurants finally recovering from the recession.
"We're definitely back,'' said Kalyn Brandewie, co-founder of Florida Retail Partners. ''Restaurants are coming out of the woodwork. This is the most activity I've seen in the past four or five years.''...
When it comes to driverless cars, the question isn't whether we have the technology to make them, because we do. The question is, "Will people want to buy them?''
That's a major obstacle facing automakers and proponents of automated vehicle technology, said Jim Barbaresso, vice president of intelligent transportation systems for HNTB, an infrastructure design firm. Sure, you can cover a car in sensors and track its location to an inch, but what happens if the system fails and a car crashes? Try explaining that to a potential buyer....
A North Carolina-based restaurant looking to expand in the Tampa Bay market is banking on an old saying known to anyone watching their weight: Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen and dinner like a pauper.
Toast Cafe has started scouting sites in the Tampa Bay area for up to 15 restaurants over the next two years. The restaurant serves breakfast and lunch along the lines of First Watch, Denny's and IHOP but with a more upscale twist. Expect eggs benedict, banana nut flap cakes and club sandwiches but also mimosas, Bloody Marys and martinis....
TAMPA — It's hardly a surprise you can buy bacon-infused funnel cakes and potato-wrapped hot dogs at the Florida State Fair. But pianos, grandfather clocks and mattresses?
Over time, the fair has become more than a place to eat candy apples, watch racing pigs and ride the Ferris wheel. It's also a place to buy reclining massage chairs, artificial sod and cowboy boots.
"It's like its own mini mall,'' Expo Hall manager Beth Duff said....
TAMPA — After 36 years, Busch Gardens is retiring its Timbuktu section of the park and replacing it with Pantopia, a themed land with shops and eateries anchored by Falcon's Fury, a 335-foot drop tower ride.
The newly imagined area will be Busch Gardens' first rebranded land since Sesame Street Safari of Fun opened in 2010. Both Pantopia and Falcon's Fury are scheduled to open in late spring....
Ever walked into a small business and liked it so much that you thought, "I could make a bundle if I owned one of these!''
A Chicago-based yogurt shop owner says that shouldn't be a pipe dream.
Mandy Calara, co-founder and CEO of Forever Yogurt, has started an online business that allows ordinary people to buy ownership in a franchise for as little as $1,000.
Calara launched CrowdFranchise.com in December with the hopes of expanding his chain of 24 self-serve yogurt shops and, eventually, connecting investors with other franchise concepts. He's promoting nine new group-owned franchises, including one in Tampa and another in Miami Beach, where the chain already has a store on Ocean Drive....
TAMPA — One day in the not-so-distant future, cars without drivers could start cruising down the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway.
The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority said Friday the Selmon Expressway has become one of 10 sites nationwide where researchers can study the safety and performance of automated vehicles.
But don't expect driverless cars to join traffic any time soon. Most likely, the vehicles would be tested on the expressway's elevated lanes during non-peak hours when officials could close the lanes to regular traffic....