Like a lot of Carrollwood residents, David Wu has a patio table and umbrella. Unlike a lot of Carrollwood residents, David Wu's umbrella can pluck 200 television channels from the sky. Wu's north Hillsborough County neighborhood, like many upscale communities, has deed restrictions that ban the satellite dishes.
Wu had one installed anyway, only his looks so much like a patio umbrella and table that Wu, who owns Lucy Ho Bamboo Garden, is betting no one complains.
"It looks like a beach umbrella. It's an improvement," said Wu. He bought the dish so his parents, who speak no English, can watch Chinese television.
The man who sold Wu the dish, Ziv Motzne, owner of Universal Satellite Engineering, hopes someone does complain. He said he would like to see it go to court. A favorable ruling there would open deed-restricted communities to satellite dishes, he said.
The key that could open that door is a kit that for $500 to $800 can turn some satellite dishes into electric patio umbrellas that swivel at the touch of a button to pick up satellite broadcasts or keep the sun off while you sit by the pool. The fabric covering the dish is made of a material that allows the signal to get through.
"All along there has been no way to deal with deed restrictions," said Motzne, whose Tampa company sells and installs satellite dishes.
"The rural sections of the country are fairly saturated," said Ron Roberge, vice president of marketing for Undercover, a manufacturer of the covers. "It does help the dealers close the deals they couldn't get before."
Roberge's company has been
perfecting its design for three years, he said. Most communities, even those that ban satellite dishes, accept those with the covers, he said.
"We have tried and tested this in some of the toughest areas in the country," Roberge said. "That is how we know we could market this nationally."
Rick Towers of Jersey Jim Towers, a Clearwater dealer that recently began to sell the covers, said he does not anticipate any trouble getting local deed-restricted communities to accept the dishes, although he has sold none so far.
"I don't see how anyone could complain," he said. "Somebody would just have to be malicious."
Motzne, who has installed two of the devices in the Tampa area _ Wu's in Carrollwood and one for Wu's brother in Tampa Palms, said he hasn't received any complaints.
David Fowke, recently hired by Tampa Palms to enforce deed restrictions, said he did not know one was installed there. He said he does not know how the neighborhood's committee will deal with it.
Representatives of Carrollwood's homeowners association could not be reached for comment.
Both Towers and Motzne both said that if a customer lands in court they would argue that it was patio furniture and there are no deed restrictions against patio furniture.
"This is basically patio furniture capable of receiving up to 200 channels," Motzne said. "To tell that it is a satellite dish you would have to go in and unzip it."
""Your Honor. What do you see? I see an umbrella,"' is what Towers said he would tell the judge.
Bill Terrell of Terrell Distributing in Thonotosassa is marketing his dish cover as though it were a patio set.
"What we put on top of the box is "Congratulations. You have just bought the finest electric umbrella money can buy,"' he said.
While distributors are targeting the umbrella dishes to deed-restricted communities, they also are aiming to sell them to people who haven't installed dishes because they don't like the looks of a traditional dish.
Motzne said some people have not bought dishes because they thought they were ugly. He said women, particularly, don't like the traditional dishes in their yards. But women like the covered dishes, he said.
"This opens up not only the deed-restricted areas but quiets a lot of wives' objections," he said.
"The response from the ladies, they were the ones who thought this was fantastic," said Howard Friedman, general manager of Video Enterprises, the Cincinnati-based maker of one style of the dish covers.
Neither Towers nor Motzne has sold many of the covers, but they just started advertising them a few weeks ago.
The manufacturers, who began showing the cover last summer, said orders have just begun to pick up.
"We are moving bunches of them," Terrell said. "We are moving every one of them we can get ready."
"We are shipping as many as we can make," Roberge said.