Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Winn-Dixie giving away big money gift cards during tweet-up

A little promotion and holiday indulgence will go a long way for Winn-Dixie fans on Wednesday.

The grocery store is hosting a holiday tweet-up, but while you might see recommendations to pick up a few items at Winn-Dixie that happen to be on sale, you'll also get a chance to win $100 gift cards, according to the chain.

Here's how this works: Follow @WinnDixie and Florida bloggers/ "brand ambassadors" @ToniPatton and @LovesMyTwoBoys on Twitter to exchange holiday recipes, exchange holiday recipes and party hosting tips. Or you can use hashtag #WDHolidayTips and follow that conversation. They're also asking folks to RSVP via twtvite.

The tweetup will go from 9 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, and the $100 gift cards will be awarded every 12 minutes, for a total of $500 in gift cards.

It'll at least pay for your Christmas dinner, or restock the fridge after the family raids it.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Meet the franchisee of sushi place How Do You Roll?

How Do You Roll? announced this month that the Austin, Texas, based chain wants to open in University Park as part of of Florida expansion. The chain has 10 locations in the U.S., including Gainesville and Sunrise. Photo provided 
Texas-based custom sushi shop called How Do You Roll? wants to come to University Park, and after we ran the announcement Dec. 11, I received a call from the restaurant's franchisee.

Better late than never, so I thought I'd at least pass along some more details thanks to the franchisee Chris Martin.

Martin lives in Fort Myers where he is a franchisee for Five Guys Burgers and Fries in that area. He said he wanted to do a new restaurant concept similar to How Do You Roll and found out that they already perfected the idea in Austin, so "I decided there was no reason to reinvent the wheel."

One of the things he likes about the chain is the branding and the warm atmosphere thanks to the employees.

"It's a comfortable atmosphere where you can spend some time at," Martin said. "The staff is really friendly, they're there to greet you at the door and guide you."

While he likes eating sushi from Publix in the evening, he knows it's been setting out for a few hours, and How Do You Roll gives a fresh alternative, he said, as well as giving people the option to use grilled chicken or beef instead of raw tuna.

Ideally, he wants to be near the new Mall at University Town Center when it opens Oct. 16, 2014, and is shooting for a fall 2014 opening himself.

"The University Parkway corridor is certainly one of the hottest parts in Florida as far as real estate now," Martin said. "There are lots of good spots around Tampa area and that's one of them."

Martin is also looking to open How Do You Roll in Estero at the Gulf Coast Town Center, in Naples at the Mercato shops and near University of South Florida's campus in Tampa.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Undercover Boss: Bradenton area Massage Heights employee receives $10,000

[Warning: this post contains spoilers. If you DVR’d this, turn away. If you missed Bradenton in "Undercover Boss" on Friday, you can read here and watch the Bradenton-only clips in lieu of fast forwarding.]

Bradenton was in the spotlight, at least for a few minutes, on national TV when “Undercover Boss” followed the journey of Massage Heights co-founder Shane Evans. The episode aired Friday on CBS.

Evans, disguised perhaps as an extra in “Hairspray,” visited four spas including one here in Manatee County. She met retreat director Tori Balzer, 21, who I talked to for a preview story that ran Friday. Above is a deleted scene provided by Undercover Boss with Tori and her boss.

Before I get into the meat of the segment, I have to point out how the location is introduced. The footage and the boss Evans calls it Bradenton, as the water tower is shown along with a shot of downtown and Twin Dolphin Marina in a blink-and-you-miss-it sequence.

Calling the area north of University Parkway as Bradenton is technically right. That’s what the post office recognizes with the 34239 ZIP code. I hear more people call it Sarasota though, but to set it apart from both cities, it’s University Park, named after the neighborhoods and developments that Benderson helped create around the area.

We hear Balzer say University Park, and the show’s news release says it, too. It’s just another example that nobody can agree what to call that area that’s not really Bradenton, Sarasota or Lakewood Ranch.

Now, to drop the cover off of the rest of the segment.

Compared to the rest of the episode, this one is relatively tame as the boss is doing basic backroom prep work. In Rockville, Md., she saw how she couldn’t massage all that well. In Houston, she was horrified that the company’s massage lotions weren’t being used on customers and in Jacksonville, her hands shook as she was attempting to do a facial.

Here in Manatee County, Balzer shared with Evans how she transferred to Florida from Michigan and became retreat director and didn’t receive the promised training, so she feels like she doesn’t know what she’s doing in all situations and has to call other retreat directors for help. 

Balzer appeared to have a good grasp on professionalism and customer service despite the struggles, encouraging Balzer to move along quickly with the prep work so they can help the massage therapists start on time and get guests checked in.

Checking guests out was a challenge though. The computer system crashed, which Balzer said happens too often, and customers had to wait longer than they should to pay and move on with their day. Good news is that Evans promised during the reveal that her company will invest in a brand new computer system for the retreat, and also said the systems do need updated.

As the lunch break starts, we meet Balzer’s boyfriend Alex who is picking them up for lunch. It turns out Alex used to work at Massage Heights for about two years and introduced Balzer to the company before they moved to Florida. Alex shares how they dated for three years, are going to get married and are considering going back to Michigan.

They ate at Square 1 Burgers & Bar in the same shopping center where some waterworks begin. Evans asked Balzer about her family and she becomes emotional, part homesick but really the thoughts are with her 43-year-old mother who is fighting health issues after being diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago. 
She recently had heart surgery, Balzer said, and the cancer has been in remission for two years.

During the reveal, Balzer receives some great news. We also see Alex accompany Balzer at the reveal, which we typically don’t see boyfriends and spouses at these reveals in “Undercover Boss.” Balzer received some great marks from the boss.

“I was so impressed with you,” Evans told Balzer. “You were absolutely amazing.”

While setting in a Zen garden in Washington, D.C., Evans connects with Balzer’s family and her mother, and allows Balzer to transfer back to a Michigan Massage Heights, pay for expenses to get back home and to receive the proper training at corporate headquarters in San Antonio.

Oh yeah, the couple gets $10,000 to start a new life, and Balzer has some tears of joy.

 “I can’t wait to call my mom. I know she’s going cry. I know she wants me to have the experience, but I know she’s going  to be even more proud that I’m going to be coming home and that I can still stay with the company,” Balzer says to the camera.

How did other employees fare? One employee received $25,000 to pay off student loans, another employee inspired a new company hardship fund for employees and received $30,000 for being the first person to be part of the program. Another employee wanted to be a child psychologist because he was in child protective services when he was younger and was given $10,000 toward a college fund.

At the end, we find out that the family decided to stay in Florida, which isn’t a total surprise because I talked to Balzer on the phone from the University Park spa, but we didn’t know the rest of the story. She did get to go back to Michigan and visit her family since the episode aired in October. I hope in lieu of paying for expenses for moving back to Michigan that the company paid for her trip back to visit the family or provide help if they want a new home in Florida.

Scanning reader comments from my preview story, folks didn’t seem to be a fan of either Massage Heights or the episode itself. Some of the criticism included how the co-founder of a massage company never massaged anyone before, and wasn’t a licensed massage therapist and some thought she was self-centered instead of customer centered.

Several employees in the episode complained about low pay and being overworked, as they have one or two other part-time jobs to make ends meet. This is apparently a big issue in the massage therapist community. I received an email from a group called Licensed Massage Therapists Against Massage Envy and Like Franchises, with Massage Heights falling under that “like” category. The group also has a petition on Change.org.

The University Park Massage Heights was in the news previously for one of its employees. An employee, in 2010, who was terminated James Winters was charged for sexually battering a female customer. Winters entered a plea deal and was sentenced to 120 days in jail and two years of probation, which expired in March.
The employee was newly licensed at the time and the company did a background check on him, a former 

Massage Heights franchisee told the Herald at the time. His background check ought to have discovered a child abuse charge in 2009, which was later dropped.

What did you think of the episode and the company? Leave comments below.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Bealls expands Leoma Lovegrove line

 The Leoma Lovegrove line is expanding at Bealls starting this month. Photos provided

I'm not an expert in ladies fashion, and barely passable for men's fashion, but I acknowledge that people follow Leoma Lovegrove and her Florida art.

So with that, Bealls Department Store, headquartered in Bradenton, announced that it is expanding the impressionist-expressionist painter's splashy, kitschy artwork into more products. You'll see her bright designs on Tervis tumblers, pillows, beach towels, koozies, handbags, children's apparel, luggage, and the list seems to go on.

The initial wave of merchandise will arrive in stores this month and the full line will come in January.

"Earlier this year we introduced the Leoma Lovegrove collection in our Ladies department with an assortment of fashion tops. Our customers responded with overwhelming enthusiasm, and we listened," said Lorna Nagler, president of Bealls in a in a news release.

Lovegrove lives on Matlatcha Island, a tiny piece of land between Pine Island and Cape Coral in Lee County and also likes to paint local life plus the local cat Fred, according to her clothing labels.

A sample shirt was sent to the Herald in a press skit, showing that the shirt retails for $36, is 100 percent polyester (it feels soft), and made in China. This particular shirt features flamingos with a sign that says "You've been Flocked." Ok, then.

I had reporter Janey Tate model the sample, and we found that because of the printing process on the shirt, as soon as the material is stretched, you will see white distressed lines that split the artwork. That might not be desirable for some shoppers while others will seek out that design.

For more information, visit www.leomalovegrove.com and www.beallsflorida.com.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bradenton's Joey D's Pizza expands to Sarasota

Joey D's Chicago Style Eatery & Pizzeria offer customers favorites like their Monsters of the Midway pizza, Cheesy Beef sub, Chilli-Cheese Fries and "Chicago Style" hot dog at their location at Cortez Road and 14th Street in Bradenton. The restaurant is now expanding to Sarasota off of Bee Ridge Road and I-75. File photo by Brian Blanco/Bradenton Herald

Longtime Bradenton deep-dish pizzeria Joey D's Chicago Style Eatery is now tossing pies in Sarasota.

The restaurant has been here since 2004, on the corner of Cortez and West 14th Street, operated by Chicago natives Bob and Maria Dennis, and Bob's brother Tommy Dennis. The restaurant moved here in 2004 after 10 years in Minneapolis.

Now, the Bradenton favorite is expanding, and announced via Facebook on Wednesday that they were going to have a soft opening later that night at their new location at 3811 Kenny Drive, off of Bee Ridge Road beside Interstate 75. The Sarasota location is also owned by Terry Gutowski, a Sarasota resident and native of Wausau, Wisc.

Joey D's is one of my favorites for making me miss visiting one of my favorite cities, Chicago, and being a hockey-loving establishment. Oh, and the food is great, too.

They named the restaurant after their hockey playing son Joey, who battled a rare disease called Cockayne Syndrome until he passed away at age 32. The effects of the genetic disease cause difficulty gaining weight, short stature, premature aging and impaired nervous system. He was only expected to survive until he was 12, but fought on for another 20 years.

I'll update with more information in Monday's paper. Any Bradenton Joey D's fans going to check out the Sarasota location? Let me know, and if you have, drop me a note in the comments.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Ryder Bikes opens new store in University Park

Ryder Bike's mechanic Matt Holland smiles as he test rides a Trek Pure comfort bike around the store after some mechanical adjustments in the Cortez Road store. The owners, who have a shop in Sarasota, have opened a new store on University Parkway. File Photo by TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/Bradenton Herald

Ryder Bikes’ new location in the Market at University Town Center is now open.

Ryder Bikes, with locations at 1905 Cortez Road and in Burns Square in Sarasota, opened its third location on Friday at 5275 University Parkway, Unit 135. The locally owned shop documented the space's transformation into a bike store on its Facebook page, and after a mad dash, managed to open on Black Friday.

The full-service bike shop carries high-end road, hybrid and casual cruiser bikes, clothing and accessories and also organizes rides. The first store opened in 1972 in Bradenton and was acquired in 2007 by current owners Paul and Karen Tobio. Ryder was named one of America’s Best Bike Shops in 2013 rated by the National Bicycle Dealers Association.

When I first spoke with Paul Tobio in July when the lease was signed, he shared that he wanted to be in the University Park/Lakewood Ranch area for awhile:
"When we bought the store on Cortez Road in March of 2007, we actually live in Lakewood Ranch and our thought was opening a store in Lakewood Ranch," he said.
Instead they found an available site in Sarasota, two years after opening their Bradenton store.
Over that time, Tobio analyzed his customer's data and saw a good percentage of his customer base was driving from East Manatee to both his Sarasota store in the Burns Square neighborhood and to the Bradenton store at 1905 Cortez Road. The time to go ahead with the new store was right, he said.

Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/2013/07/03/4593759/ryder-bikes-coming-to-university.html#storylink=cpy

Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.

For information, call 941-351-0000 or visit www.ryderbikes.com and Facebook.com/RyderBikesUniversityPark.