As locals we tend to avoid Tampa Bays tourist traps the theme parks, alligator farms, even the beach. But the Dolphin Encounter a charter boat that has cruised the waters around Clearwater Beach for 17 years is different. For $20, you can take a relaxing sunset boat ride past the homes of Tom Cruise and Hulk Hogan; partake in all the free beer and wine you can sip; and, of course, catch a glimpse of the Gulfs dolphins. Best of all, theres no lines.
A reserved but amiable arborist, Treedom Tree Service owner Daniel Alloncius (aka Dependable Dan) handles the residential and commercial tree and landscaping needs of the greater Bay area public with integrity, skill and without losing his respect for the green world. He’s licensed and insured, his estimates are free, his rates are reasonable, and he can manage any greenery issues you may have, whether it’s as simple as pruning hedges, planting a sapling or removing a branch that’s strayed too close to a power line — or as complicated as evaluating the condition of an unhealthy tree and, if necessary, removing said tree and clearing the site of its remains. 727-798-2570.
Installing windshield wiper blades should be easy, right? And it just might be for some of you, but to most of us its like solving a Rubiks Cube in a clothes dryer. Those clips, ugh. The sliding of the rubber strip, aaagghh. But hey, our troubles are over. Merely buy your wiper blades at Advance Auto Parts, and one of their dexterous staffers will come outside and slap em on for ya. You might be embarrassed when you see how easily they do it, but at least you wont have to drive home and waste a Saturday afternoon trying to wrestle the things on yourself. Several Bay area locations, advanceautoparts.com.
cheapest in the city, nor does it carry much more than the popular liquors. But you certainly cant find a more relaxed and knowledgeable staff. Co-owner Richard Roy, a former barkeep, opened the upscale beer, wine and liquor store three years ago, fed up with the watering-hole business. So far, hes carved out an impressive niche in the fast-growing downtown area, serving condo residents and USF students alike. Oh, and dont miss the monthly wine tastings. Theyre free.
Its located inconspicuously in a cramped strip mall across from a Publix. The space is plain: no gaudy flower arrangements, no luscious floral scent. A friendly young woman, owner Nga Phan, greets you and shows you to a room in the rear thats refrigerated. Row after row of tightly wound packages of roses a dozen per cover the floor and several benches. Myriad colors. Different sizes. The bunches start at $5.98 (sometimes $3.98 on sale) and go up to $12.98. La Vies roses are the perfect start for a guy looking to get back in his womans good graces on the cheap.
Florida may seem like an unlikely place to make a living cleaning chimneys, but between the fireplaces in restored 1920s bungalows and the ones in newer suburban homes, theres plenty of business for Chimney Sweep of Floridas Robert Westerfield Jr. Unlike other chimney sweeps in the area, who wear overalls or a corporate uniform, Westerfield comes to your door in the traditional 19th-century chimney sweep outfit: a wool pea coat and 8-inch top hat. But hes not just there for show; typically, Westerfield can spiff up a chimney, educate you on proper lighting techniques and clean up his mess within 10 minutes. But ask about his passion for crafting metal armor and it might take a little longer.
This outlet store for Thompson Cigar Company, Casual Living and The Linen Source — three national (but locally owned) catalogs based in Tampa — is situated in a warehouse space that’s been converted into a retail storefront for a variety of exceptionally marked-down merchandise, some of it overstock, some of it discontinued or returned for one reason or another. The tall rows of shelves are jam-packed with everything from random cigar accessories like humidors and cigar cutters to unique kitschy gifts and ladies’ clothing to quality household wares (300-thread-count sheets, faux-suede couch covers, palm-tree-covered rugs). Definitely worth a visit. Open every other week; hours vary.
Her husky voice has a touch of Harvey Fierstein in it; shes more dog rasper than dog whisperer. But when she leads her Canine Connection obedience classes, Lisa Lombardos distinctive timbre carries instant authority. Shes tough but empathetic, training owners along with their dogs and dealing effectively with all behaviors, from rowdy to reserved. She also possesses a wealth of information about collars, nutrition, treats and toys which is no surprise, since shes co-owner of Gulfports Mecca for pet owners, the well-stocked Bark and Browse.
Two years ago, Eric Atwater (son of the original Atwaters Cafeteria owners) opened My City Fashions in an empty storefront attached to the popular soul-food restaurant, selling jeans and shorts by Dickies and MFG. But after a series of shootings in south St. Pete last year, Atwater began to sell T-shirts emblazoned with airbrushed likenesses of people whod been murdered. They quickly became keepsakes for friends and families of the slain. He calls them R.I.P. shirts, and if you take a stroll through Midtown, youll no doubt see a few. Prices vary, and sometimes Atwater donates shirts for funerals. Though the shirts may seem a little morbid, Atwater says they help with the grieving process and also keep the senseless killings in the public consciousness.
Long a favorite of the elementary-school party set, petting zoos fell out of favor in recent years after the industry was beset by bad press (a 2005 e-Coli outbreak was linked to a zoo at the Strawberry Festival) and skyrocketing insurance premiums. Thats a shame. When done right, as is the case with Noahs Ark on Wheels, the petting zoo is still a classic. In March, Odessa-based Noahs Ark brought a petting zoo to the Loaf offices, where we found that hanging out with billy goats, a turtle, bunny rabbits and one aggressive swan is as much fun for adults as it is for kids. Just be sure to hit up the hand sanitizer on the way out of the pen. noahsarkonwheels.com.