The man behind Amazon — from the distribution center coming to Hillsborough County to the countless packages arriving on our doorsteps — is described as a visionary, ruthless competitor and demanding boss who forever changed the way we shop and read.
He's acutely focused on offering customers everything under the sun at the lowest prices possible. He's also intent on creating human colonies in space....
I spent about 12 hours in stores and malls over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend. I didn't see any pushing or screaming, but I got to bump shoulders, literally, with people who consider shopping for Black Friday deals a sport.
I snagged a few deals — a Magic Bullet blender for $39.99 and a Huffy bike for $49.99. But mostly, it was just good people-watching. Here are some random observations from the store sidewalks, aisles and checkout lines:...
The crowds appeared thinner than in past years, but shoppers were eager to spend as they hit the stores for Black Friday.
Tampa Bay area retailers reported smaller morning crowds, thanks in large part to many stores opening earlier than ever on Thanksgiving. Many customers also had shopped online deals early, eliminating the need to rush to stores when the doors opened.
"It's different this year, more spread out," said Mick Carpenter, a sales manager at Best Buy in Tampa. "It seemed like it was an easier process than cramming everything into a few hours."...
Black Friday arrived early for holiday shoppers looking for deals on Thanksgiving. But was it too early?
Georgia Hence of Dunedin said she was shocked to see only a few people in line when she arrived at the Clearwater Toys "R" Us two hours before it opened at 5 p.m.
"I've never seen it like this,'' she said. "There's no one here, which I guess is good for me.''
Hence has been shopping Black Friday deals for years and preferred it when stores opened at midnight. That way, people could finish their meals, then head out to stores after their children went to bed....
11/28/13 The Feed
TAMPA — It wasn't your typical matchup.
National Geographic pitted two of the fastest football players, Chris Johnson and Devin Hester, against cheetahs from Busch Gardens to see who could cross the finish line first.
The race was part of a television show for Nat Geo Wild called Man v. Cheetah, premiering at 9 tonight as a kickoff for the network's "Big Cat Week.''
"We wanted to do something really different that would push our understanding of the animals and be something that was relatable,'' said Jenny Apostol, the show's executive producer. "We had no idea what was going to happen.''...
If you don't have your shopping list set yet for the frenzy of Black Friday (and now Thanksgiving Thursday), let us help. Retail reporter Susan Thurston gives us the rundown on what's hot in gift-giving this holiday season. From Playstation 4 to XBOX One and everything in between, she's got the details.
More holiday shopping
Is Black Friday dead?
It's a question people started asking when major retailers announced they were adding Thanksgiving hours to kick off Black Friday deals. Instead of getting up before dawn, shoppers could stay up late to hit the stores — or log into their computers — after their turkey dinner.
For retailers, it's not so much about phasing out Black Friday, the official start of the holiday shopping season. It's about adding to it and extending the window of time people can shop for the best deals....
Having fun is serious business.
Just ask the 26,000 people at the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions expo held last week in Orlando.
The five-day conference is the largest of its kind worldwide, drawing people from 100 countries. Wonder what's coming up at your favorite theme park, entertainment center, zoo or museum? Chances are it was introduced at this trade show....
11/20/13 Food & Dining
Richard Coley eats at Chick-fil-A six days a week. He loves the food, obviously. But, even more, he loves the restaurant and everything it stands for.
"I like the fact that they believe in God and Christian principles and they don't compromise," he said.
The 62-year-old from St. Petersburg said he has traveled to more than 110 store openings nationwide for a chance to win a year's supply of chicken sandwiches, fries and a drink. On Wednesday, he went to Temple Terrace for the reopening of the store at 5302 E Fowler Ave. The drive-through-only location had been closed for four months and rebuilt as a standalone restaurant with seating for 100....
TAMPA — Something huge is happening Thanksgiving Day at the Walmart Supercenter on Gandy Boulevard, and we're not talking about great deals on TVs.
All 26 checkout lanes will be open from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., perhaps a bit longer.
Holiday miracle? Not really. It's the one time all year Walmart lights up every register.
Aaron Powell, manager of the store at 4302 W Gandy Blvd., said Walmart designs the number of checkout lanes to meet Black Friday shopping volume but never fully staffs them the other 364 days. That would explain why on a Saturday afternoon we stand 20 people deep for five registers, wondering why for the love of retail they don't add cashiers....
TAMPA — To the backdrop of screaming tourists on Busch Gardens' Cheetah Hunt roller coaster, Gov. Rick Scott on Friday said 22.9 million visitors came to Florida between July and September, a third-quarter record for the state.
He also set a goal of reaching 100 million visitors in 2013, up from the 95 million expected this year.
"We want Florida to be the No. 1 tourism destination in the world,'' he said, during an appearance outside the Crown Colony House at Busch Gardens, Tampa's top tourist destination....
TAMPA — As crazy as it might sound, the day motorists will be able to take their hands off the wheel and let their car do the driving could be just around the bend.
Transportation experts gathered Thursday said advances in computer software, sensors and global positioning systems have made driverless vehicles possible for widespread use within a decade or so.
"This technology is not 22nd century technology; it is here," said Ananth Prasad, secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation....
11/13/13 Food & Dining
TAMPA — Another big restaurant is joining the dining mix along Boy Scout Boulevard.
Del Frisco's Grille is opening its first west Florida location next fall at MetWest International next to Kona Grill. The restaurant will have seating for about 450 guests, including 160 on a rooftop deck with a retractable roof.
The 9,700-square-foot restaurant will focus on American comfort classics with creative twists and regional favorites made with locally sourced ingredients. It will have a large bar, patio and "wine wall" with 350 selections....
TAMPA — Gander Mountain, a sporting goods store devoted to the outdoors, opened its first Tampa Bay location on Tuesday.
With headquarters in St. Paul, Minn., the store sells new and used firearms and gear for hunting, fishing and camping, including clothing and footwear.
The store, at 11655 W Hillsborough Ave, is Gander Mountain's first on Florida's west coast and sixth in the state. Others are in Jacksonville, Ocala, Palm Beach Gardens, St. Augustine and Lake Mary, home to Gander Mountain Academy for firearms training....
Forget Black Friday. This year it's all about Thanksgiving Thursday.
If you've been to any place with a cash register lately, you know retailers are ringing in the holidays earlier than ever. I'm still snacking on Milky Ways from Halloween, but stores want me to buy the Candy Land board game. And tablets. And Christmas stockings.
The trend started a few years ago as companies began experimenting with Thanksgiving hours at brick-and-mortar stores and launching early Black Friday deals online. Consumers responded with cheer. Many were eager to shop off their pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving Thursday and sleep through Black Friday. Two rounds of sales became better than one....