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Martin Jewelers keeps ticking after 60 years

Freddie Martin, who died in 1969, founded Martin’s Jewelers as a watch repair business out of his Brandon home in 1954. 
Published Nov. 26, 2014

BRANDON — A three-year promise to his father has turned into a lifelong passion for Freddie "Joe" Martin Jr., the oldest of Fred Martin's eight children.

The Massachusetts native, a disabled Army veteran, started a watch repair business out of the family home on Parsons Avenue in 1954. Joe, a plumber by trade, recalls not having much interest in working in the family business.

He committed to working for his father on a trial basis. Sixty years later, Joe and his wife of 50 years, Brenda, are celebrating the anniversary of one of Brandon's oldest businesses: Martin's Jewelers, which they have run since Freddie's death in 1969.

The store has moved to seven Brandon locations throughout the years, including its first spot in the famed Scogin's Department Store. Martin's Jewelers has operated out of its current location on Oakfield Drive for the past 26 years.

"We carry merchandise the mall stores don't carry," said Brenda, who manages the business operations.

The store's family atmosphere stems from the Martins' son Jeff, daughter Pam Simmons and grandson Hunter Simmons serving customers as well as the employees who have worked there for decades and a plethora of long-time customers.

Dr. Stephen Parks first visited Martin's in 1970 on his way to his University of South Florida fraternity brother's wedding in Miami. He needed to pick up a ring then and brought in one of his own rings for servicing this month.

Now Parks says he considers Joe and Brenda family.

Martin's makes custom-crafted pieces, repurposes old gold and offers free, one-on-one classes on diamonds.

"I was born a Pilgrim, but I'm a redneck by the grace of God," Joe said. "I like to make people laugh when they come in."

For more information, call (813) 689-8124.

Wine bar and shop uncorks in Palma Ceia

After some 20 years working for wine importers and distributors, Dominique Conn-Giolito finally realized her dream of owning her own wine bar and retail shop. Traveling Corks opened last week in a former Palma Ceia cigar shop on Bay to Bay Boulevard, a few blocks west of Bayshore Boulevard.

"It's cute, quaint and comfortable," she said, picturing a casual hangout where friends and neighbors will linger over 28 wines served by the glass or bottle. "All from family-owned and operated wineries."

Starting out, food is not the focus. For now, two meat and cheese plates are offered: small and large. Dominique and her husband, Spartaco Giolito, also own nearby Osteria Natalina on S MacDill Avenue and Mr. Lasagna on W El Prado Boulevard, so catering for private parties of 40 to 50 guests will begin soon.

In January, they'll begin hosting a monthly passport sampling of wines from around the world. Customers get their passports stamped at every event they attend over the next 12 months. A full passport can be exchanged for a prize.

Traveling Corks, 3219 Bay to Bay Blvd. is open 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 3 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. Find them on Facebook or call (813) 280-9870.

Sushi, hibachi unite at North Tampa eatery

With its sushi rolls, entertaining hibachi show and modern decor, Kuchi Sushi & Hibachi is a feast for the eyes and the appetite. The newly-opened restaurant took over the former Bennigan's location on Anderson Road in North Tampa. A once-dark interior is now an open, airy space divided into two sections, one devoted to sushi and the other to teppanyaki.

The sushi side offers an intimate lounge setting centered by a large, U-shaped bar where 77 varieties of sushi rolls are prepared. Specialty rolls average $12 and the Two Roll Maki Lunch served with choice of soup or salad is $10.

The other side of the restaurant has 10 hibachi tables catering to a lively, upbeat dining experience. Skilled chefs slice and dice everything from shrimp to filet mignon while entertaining patrons with their quick wit and ability to arrange onion slices into fire-shooting volcanos. Hibachi lunch specials start at $11 and the dinner for two, which includes chicken, shrimp, scallops, filet mignon and lobster, is $49.

Diners can also choose traditional entrees such as Chicken Katsu and Seafood Tempura.

Kuchi Sushi & Hibachi, 9206 Anderson Rd., is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to midnight Friday; noon to midnight Saturday; and noon to 10 p.m. Sunday. Call (813) 889-7733.

Everybody's Business is compiled by Times Staff Writer Amy Scherzer and Times Correspondents Karen Ring and Eric Vician.

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