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Hearts dented, store is strong

(ran PC edition of PASCO TIMES)

It has been a year since Pamela Bowe _ Dade City's queen of scratch and dent discount groceries _ died after a brief, intense battle with cancer.

And it has been a year since her daughter and son-in-law shouldered the family business.

What a year it has been.

Bowe was 46 when she died on Jan. 28, 2003. She left her Dade City business, "Tin Can Pam's," chiefly in the hands of her daughter and son-in-law, Patricia and Jason Bloxsom.

At 25, Patricia Bloxsom grew up in the arcane scratch and dent world. She started ringing up sales at 10, and as a teenager she learned to balance the books and negotiate deals for pallets of mixed items, never sure of what the truck would bring, or how the customers would react to the latest shipment.

Alongside her, for the past nine years, was Jason Bloxsom, 27, first as a boyfriend, then as a husband.

The couple said they got a course in hard work and dedication along the way.

"My mother taught us well," Patricia Bloxsom said. "She told us, "Don't ever forget, always be your own boss.' "

In the year since Bowe died, the store has done better than just remain, it has expanded.

The newest Tin Can Pam's is in Wildwood. And the warehouse operation, supplying other discount grocers, has grown. The young couple regularly bargain for shipments, negotiate contracts with suppliers and swap truck loads or resell them along the way from suppliers, from New York to Florida to Arizona.

And when the truck comes, they unload the boxes and see what they'll have to sell.

Although the prices are a fraction of the cost of regular grocery stores, the cans are often dented, the cardboard containers are sometimes bruised. There are brands no one's heard of mixed with regular household names.

Sometimes stuff flies off the shelves.

Sometimes, items linger.

"I've got ice cream cones now 10 for a dollar, I just need the shelf space, we can't get rid of them," Jason Bloxsom said with a smile.

Bowe's son, David Walker Bowe, 28, also helps run the front operation of the grocery, and her husband, David, stays behind the scenes, managing the warehouse operation.

Patricia Bloxsom continues to pursue her master's degree in accounting, and then a CPA certification. Not so she can get out of the business, she said, but so she can run the business her mother started even better.

Last year, she said, was a record year for sales.

It was also a tough year, she acknowledged, holding back tears.

"We cry a lot," she said.