The Veterans of South Pinellas County will present their 6th Annual “Salute to the Military

veterans-of-south-pinellas-county-logoThe 6th Military Salute will be on Saturday, March 19th at Horan Park in St. Pete Beach. All are invited for a fun, family, all-day event including a “Street Fair” with a Competition Car Show organized by the Veterans of South Pinellas County, Live All Day Music, Exhibits, Vendors through SIK Promotions, Food, Beer & Wine including St. Pete Beach Fire Department’s booth for pulled pork platters, hot dogs, hamburgers, Gennaro’s Pizzeria and Pasta, VSPC Chowders Hounds for authentic  “New England” style Chowder. Also the Snack Shack with Snow-Cones, Pretzels, Popcorn & the favorite, Funnel Cakes. The Kids’ Fishing Tournament with prizes, gets underway at 2pm, sponsored by Gulf to Bay Bait & Tackle Shop. 

They expect to have a great display of Antique Fire Engines, Military & Rescue Vehicles.

A Silent Auction will feature great prizes including hotel stays, restaurant vouchers, golf outings, artwork, etc. … A “Special Raffle” will offer a day flight to Key West, spending the day and a beautiful sunset flight home. Several 50/50 Drawings will be held every two hours throughout the day as well.

Opening ceremonies will include a meaningful Joint-Services Military Enlistment Ceremony and special presentation of three flags to honor WW II veterans. Representatives from the Veterans Administration will be on hand during the day to explain benefits & help register veterans into the system. 

The Veterans of South Pinellas County, an all-volunteer group, is a well-organized 501(c)(3) charity that works independently and with several other military charity organizations in order to raise funds on behalf of deserving veterans and active military who are deployed and in harm’s way.

Included on the hard-working committee for this event are President Harry Metz and Board Members Howard Fletcher, Brooks Cavender, Virginia McNivens, Wayne MacDowell, Jim Williams, Lance Peterson, Allen Collins.

The Veterans of South Pinellas County also invite both military veterans and non-military interested individuals to its monthly breakfast. It is held at 8 am the last Friday in Tierra Verde at the Island Grill & Raw Bar Restaurant, 110 Pinellas Bayway South, on the way to Fort De Soto. For more information on the Veterans of South Pinellas County, contact Brooks Cavender at brooksc@writeme.com.

Story by Steve Traiman

[Editor’s Note: special thanks to Wayne MacDowell and Brooks Cavender for their information and artwork.]

Construction: Building on the Beaches Takes Special Knowledge

When I began building homes in 1971, we did not even need a building permit for most single family homes. Today in some municipalities it takes longer to  get through the architectural and permit stages than it actually took to build  a home back then. Most changes are  for the protection of the consumer.

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Devastation caused by natural disasters dictated most of these changes. Newer energy rules produce overall benefits for America. On Pinellas County’s beaches, the following major changes are  now being enforced by local building departments:

Permitting

Years ago builders could drop off a set of blueprints and receive a permit within a day or two. Building Departments are taking an unusual amount of time in processing prints due to the abundant workload and much more complex prints that need to be reviewed. Since 2006, builders have the option of using private companies for both plan review and inspections performed by licensed architects and engineers.

FEMA Regulations:  

Most Pinellas residents are aware of  Base Flood Elevations (BFE) required by FEMA. All new homes in flood prone areas need to be at least 12” above the new BFE. Flood insurance will be even lower if the home is constructed 36” above BFE.

New Florida Building Codes

New homes today are considerably more structurally sound.  The  structural items of steel, concrete, and roof tie-down have vastly increased over the years.

Energy Items

Upon submittal for a building  permit, a set of signed & sealed Energy Calcs has to be completed. This energy audit considers glass efficiency, SEER ratings for  A/C systems, insulation types and amount, appliance rating and many other factors. This Energy Calc form must receive a passing grade before the permit can be issued. The cost of Solar Energy has fallen and many consumers are opting for a zero or greatly reduced electric bill.

Hurricane Items

Most areas of Pinellas County require new homes to withstand a 140-150 MPH hurricane. Window  & door types & installation, truss  tie-downs, and garage doors are just some of the important items needed to keep your home safe as possible should a major storm come  your way.

Modernization

Today’s new homes don’t have only 8’ ceilings, mica countertops and  carpeted floors. Cathedral ceilings, granite counters and ceramic floors are today’s products of choice. And yes, most of our homes have  elevators for both convenience and help for our handicap senior citizens. GHD Construction Services, Inc. has  constructed 6,000 homes since 1971,  and has a new model home at  14305 N. Bayshore Dr. in Madeira Beach. 

If you have any question pertaining to new home construction, feel free to email me at: tsmith@ghdcsi.com, or request a meeting at our new model.

Story by Tom Smith, Contractor- GHD Construction Services, Inc.

TB Bucs, Rays, Lightning- Adding Upgrades & Amenities for Fans

The fans come first for Tampa Bay’s NFL Buccaneers, MLB Rays and NHL Lightning, with major and minor upgrades to stadium and arena facilities, many new amenities and ticket deals for the upcoming seasons.

At press time (end of February), the Lightning are in a close battle for a playoff spot that would get them back to their quest for the Stanley Cup; the Rays are bolstered by power additions to their lineup and baseball’s best starting rotation for the new season, and the Bucs are looking to build on last year’s improved season with their star quarterback Jameis Winston.

Biggest project is the $100 million, two-phase comprehensive renovation of Raymond James Stadium with the Bucs contributing a good share of the cost. 

The Lightning, which has completed more than $87 million in upgrades the past four years at Amalie Arena, is giving the VIP Lexus Club an upgrade for season ticket holders, and the Rays have taken out some suite space to create a new ‘Draft Room’ Season Ticket Club behind home plate, with many weekday specials and weekend family programs.

Another innovative example of Gulf Beaches’ exposure for both the Lightning and Rays key away games are the Watch Parties on the beach, hosted by the TradeWinds Guy Harvey Outpost on St. Pete Beach. Wendy Yoder, Field Producer, Production & Special Events Manager, told Paradise News,  “After the last of six regular season Lightning parties February 28, there’s potential for additional playoff games as we hosted last year. For the Rays, we’re set for six games for the new season, same as last year. Only cost for fans is $10 parking, with game food and drink available.  The Lightning usually bring their Thunderbug mascot, the Lightning Girls and special giveaways, while the Rays have Raymond and DJ Kitty with their giveaways. It’s a great promotion for our resort.”

Bucs’ Plans for RJA 

The Bucs and Tampa Sports Authority reached an agreement on the RJA renovation last December, which was also approved by Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa.  The Bucs are committed to a minimum of $29 million for Phase 1 and another $28.8 million on Phase 2, with the TSA kicking $28.8 million in to the project. Sources for the public funding are available from recent TSA bond refinancing savings and the ¼-cent Tourist Development Tax. The Bucs are responsible for all remaining improvement costs.

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At that time, Bucs’ COO Brian Ford said,  “This is a great day for our entire community as the agreement ensures that RJA will remain one of the top sports facilities in the country.  The agreement provides the type of much-needed enhancements that will improve the in-game experience for our loyal Buccaneer fans and will play a key role in our ability to attract the types of large-scale events that we have grown accustomed to hosting over the years.  These exciting projects have been made possible through the hard work and foresight of all parties, including public officials from the TSA, Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa.”

With Wagner Murray and Associates as architect and Manhattan Construction as contractor, Phase 1 work is underway. Centerpiece is the installation of new, state-of-the-art HD videoboards in each end zone, four HD tower video displays in each corner of the lower bowl and HD ribbon boards in the center ring of the suite level. The new end zone boards will measure 9,600 square feet each, and each tower display will cover 2,304 square feet, for a total video display area of 28,416 square feet, third largest in the NFL. Phase 1 also includes a new, state-of-the-art sound system and concessions upgrades, and the renovation of all luxury suites.

Other key features for 2016 are the Ring of Honor Club and Hall of Fame Club – two all new, premium-seating concepts featuring all-inclusive food and drink options, 

air-conditioned comfort and one of the best views of the action on the field. Located on the suite level, each Club is limited to 240 seats and features an expansive,  9,500 square-foot, open-floor design, including prime food and drink options as well as a full liquor bar for purchase. Membership provides VIP access to all RJA events including all Bucs home games, USF home football games, the Outback Bowl, Monster Jam, concerts and other special events included in one price. Members will also have the option to purchase seats for the 2017 College Football National Championship Game.

Project Phase 2, to be completed for the 2017 season, includes an extensive renovation of the east and west club lounges, expansions of the general concourses, construction of a new team store, and other general fan enhancements.

Rays’ Top-Value Promotions

“New for the 2016 season, we have added a variety of value-laden promotions for our fans,” Brian Richeson, Rays’ Vice President of Sales & Marketing, told Paradise News.  “Each weekday has a ticket promotion with different appeals and when combined with our weekend lineup full of promotional giveaways, you have 81 games full of attractive promotions, among the most aggressive in MLB.” 

“Additionally, we aimed to add value to our season ticket-holder base with two new and exciting benefits. First, The Draft Room, an exclusive club area for season ticket holders, will feature enhanced concession offerings, local craft beers and themed items based on visiting teams.  Second, the new Rays Rewards program takes season ticket benefits to a new level, with points that earn them access to merchandise, can’t-buy experiences and more.”

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The last major Trop renovation for the 2014 season was very well received. The biggest change was the new 360 degree pedestrian circulation created around the lower seating bowl.  This provides easier access to and from ballpark gates, concessions and activity areas through out the facility. Also created was a more dynamic experience in the area just above the center field wall previously occupied by the 

Everglades BBQ Smokehouse. Working with concessionaire Centerplate, it was transformed into  “The Porch in Center Field,” a unique patio with open views of the playing field and new food and beverage areas easily accessible to all ballpark patrons. A new deck overlooking the Rays Touch Tank connects the patio to the new walkway at its right field entrance. In addition, a more traditional Batter’s Eye  structure, meeting all MLB specifications was installed. 

As a result of this project, visitors are now able to access the entire lower seating bowl directly from escalators at the main rotunda entrance of  Tropicana Field. The project cost well over $1 million and builds on the more than $20 million the Rays have invested in the Trop since 2006 (see Paradise News, May 2014 issue).

Pre-season kicked off with the annual Rays Fan Fest, February 27 at the Trop. Several thousand enthusiastic fans were on hand to meet and get autographs from some of their favorite players, take photos with Raymond and DJ Kitty and enjoy the surroundings. Overall, there was a lot of optimism for the new season.

Lightning Lexus at Amalie Arena

After spending more than $87 million the past five years in fan upgrades at the then St. Pete Times Forum and now Amalie Arena, the Lightning is planning some nice interior upgrades to the VIP Lexus Lounge for the new 2016-17 season, according to Bill Wickett, Executive VP of Communications. Full season and 21-pack customers get valet parking and a private entrance for hockey games, concerts, family shows, AFL Storm football and other events; unlimited upscale dining and beverage options; and all-inclusive beer, wine, mixed drinks and sodas. . The Lexus Lounge is adjacent to thelocker rooms, with seats 10 feet from the ice with a great rink-level view of warm-ups and game action.

When Lightning and arena owner Jeff Vinik announced the $40 million in most recent renovations a few years ago, he vowed to make the 15-year-old arena one of the nation’s best and dug deep in his own pockets to make it happen without any burden on the taxpayer. Significant modifications started with a new main entrance with one large staircase (rather than the previous two) with access to the box office, VIP guest services and a new 4,000-square-foot team store and cafe. All 19,000-plus seats were replaced with thick-cushioned chairs, all with cup-holders, and all suites were completely renovated and upgraded.

The old Icons and Medallions restaurants gave way to a new outdoor 10,000-square-foot upper-level,Bud Light Party Deck, with five concession stands and drink bars, and stunning photo-taking views of downtown Tampa. About 600 seats from the third level gave way to new Pipe Organ, fan viewing area and bar. The digital organ has five keyboards, a 300-speaker sound system and a rotating base. The 63 pipes are displayed with a huge Tampa Bay Lightning sign that lights up red, white and blue during the national anthem.

Aimed at families, the Lightning had a variety of offers and promotions throughout the 2015-16 hockey season at Amalie Arena. Included were Little Caesars Family Packs, pre-game Corona Tailgates, monthly Coca-Cola ticket specials, Bolts BBQ offers and an all new Bud Light “Up For Whatever” package. All were very well received, according to Wickett.

With a positive approach to the Lightning again making the Stanley Cup Playoffs, every effort again will be made by the team to limit access to Amalie Arena season tickets by visiting team fans who try to take advantage of illegal online offerings by season ticket holders. With prices reaching as high as $5,000 a ticket last year when the team came within two wins for the Stanley Cup, the Lightning had the most stringent requirements for playoff tickets.

Tampa Bay sports fans are very fortunate to have a trio of major league teams offering exciting playand upscale amenities, and owners who really care about giving their patrons a real return for theirloyalty and support.

Story by Steve Traiman

Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Nelson Luis, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Dave Haller andRafaela Amador, Tampa Bay Rays; and Bill Wickett, Tampa Bay Lightning.]

[Steve Traiman is President of Creative Copy by Steve Traiman in St. Pete Beach, offeringfreelance business writing services. He can be reached via email at traimancreativecopy@gmail.com]

Happy St. Caddy’s Day!

In case you hadn’t heard, Caddy’s on the Beach is under new ownership, Irish ownership, those most sociable of people who excel at creating memorable bar/restaurant experiences. 

With St. Patrick’s Day looming here’s why that’s worth dancing a jig over…

The new owners are no strangers to the area.  They have successfully brought the MacDinton and Yard of Ale chains to both St. Petersburg and Tampa.  There, quality food and drink in a lively, Irish ambiance has proven hugely popular. After acquiring Caddy’s on Sunset Beach last year, they quickly recognized that a local gem like Caddy’s, as both Treasure Island natives and savvy visitors agree, is a formula you don’t change, just enhance. 

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They made it a priority that any tweaks or refinements should preserve the unique vibe of this local favorite 

destination. Following repairs to a building which has been hopping for generations and was ready for a little sprucing up, the regulars have come flooding back to enjoy what made this place special for generations.  The  ‘chill’  island time atmosphere, the delicious menu options served right on the beach, and the  ‘alcohol allowed’  beach privilege only it can offer in this locality, make Caddy’s unique. 

It’s clear that the new, improved Caddy’s has lost none of its charm, but polished up way more than the floorboards in an ownership switch-out that has unquestionably been a win-win. The new management places strong emphasis on prompt and friendly service. They now offer music twice daily in-season plus twelve draft beer choices at their three in-house bars.

With a pretty rare across-the-board appeal, Caddy’s attracts couples of all ages, family groups and young singles, and the flip-switch for ‘relax’ kicks in fast and sticks longer than the sand between your toes. 

There are complementary beach chairs on offer and complementary, (with a minimum purchase) cabanas for those wanting to chill with extra elbow room. 

Customers can take one of the free island hoppers as an alternative to the paid parking, carpooled or otherwise, which is available onsite. All in all, COTB is a renewed local treasure well worth checking out again (and again), if you haven’t visited for a while.

The Irish influence hits Treasure Island in time for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, and Caddy’s is promising a day to remember on the 17th….

The festivities include: live entertainment – 1pm to 10pm, including performances from dancers of the Scariff School of Irish Dancing in Tampa, and a Pipe and Drum Band who play two shows scheduled for 2 & 4pm. Figure in food specials like Corned Beef & Cabbage, and Shepherd’s Pie to keep it tasty AND traditionally Irish, drink specials like Killian Draft Beers for just $2, and consider  – why the Hooley WOULD you party elsewhere for St. Paddy’s Day?!

Opening hours year-round are 8 am to 11 pm, visit  www.caddysotb.com  for all the buzz on this beach haven, or call  (727) 360-4993.

THE BEACH THEATER LIVES!

property-law-groupIt lives, at least, in the memory and imagination of many of us.  And, of course, it could live (again), maybe…

The historic theater on Corey Avenue has been closed since 2012, a victim of changing technology and personal frailty, but it is still possessed of a certain power over peoples’ imagination, based on its rich history and very special place in local residents’ lives.  We’ve spoken to people whose parents went on their first dates there and others who worked at the theater as teenagers.  

The Beach Theater opened in 1940, when Corey Avenue itself was just 3 years old. The Art Deco theater has shown a great many first-run movies over the years, ran Marx Brothers’ movies for a time, and, in the years before the most recent owner, screenwriter Michael France purchased the theater in 2007, the theater had gained a reputation for showing independent and foreign films.

France shook things up, hosting Bob Dylan tributes, concert films and even showed free family films on Saturday mornings.  When he showed “The Big Lebowski,” 

France served white Russians – the “Dude’s” signature cocktail.  Shark sandwiches were the order of the day when “Jaws” was on the marquee.  “It was more than just a theater,” said Lee “Flee” Courtney, the music director at WMNF radio, which held numerous benefits at the Beach Theater. “He was happy just to make the popcorn, soda and beer money back.”  The theater was packed for benefits (and midnight screenings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”), but the crowds dwindled on regular nights. 

Although France passed away in 2013, title to the property is still held in the name of France’s company, St. Pete Beach Theater, LLC.  

He was not able to achieve his ambition of making the theater a non-profit, to help garner community financial support for keeping the theater going and there has been litigation preventing any forward motion.

France’s vision was a worthy one, and remains so even now, but there are challenges to realizing it.  There is some modest debt, including 2015 real estate taxes.  The main obstacle, however, appears to be the substantial cost of updating the projection system to digital, which is how movies are distributed now. The seats are in pretty bad shape, too, and the building needs attention.

There doesn’t appear to be a lack of people possessed of the desire to see the Beach Theater continue its historic role in the community, but it takes more than love, it takes leadership, as well as a bit of philanthropy.

Story by Thomas A. Brodersen, Esq., Anderson & Brodersen, P.A.
350 Corey Avenue, St. Pete Beach
(727) 363-6100
www.PropertyLawGroup.com

Dining Out with Joyce Lafray- The Mill

If you’re searching for one of the best downtown restaurants, you need go no further than The Mill, a relatively new invention by Ted Dorsey, a talented chef who created many a wave as the former chef at Castile, located at the swank Hotel Zamora on St. Pete Beach.

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The Mill, once a well-thought-of pizza parlor, is now a cozy upscale retreat designed to create an inviting, relaxed and original ambience…and it does.

Even the lavatories are a hoot.  A vintage tub from the early 1900s, is cleverly fashioned into a funky sink. The men’s has its own style and the bar area is as comfortable as it gets, a great place for singles to meet, greet and experience a great meal. 

Though considered expensive by some, there is no doubt in my mind that you get what you pay for And what you get is mighty good. I visited three times for this review and not once was I disappointed. No doubt, it’s a boom, it’s a bang and as Chef Emeril Lagasse would say, it’s a slam-dunk bam! 

The restaurant, with an open kitchen, offers superior food specializing in a commitment to local sources and fresh ingredients. The menu is a perfect size, but the outstanding offerings are so varied and unique it makes it difficult to choose. The cuisine is as sophisticated as any in metropolitan areas like New York, Miami or LA. 

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‘First Plates’ which we typically call appetizers are in good portion and include something for every palate. Southern Fried Frog Legs, which I was told are from Georgia and not the Everglades as one might guess– are prepared with a chili brown butter, compressed tomatoes, then served with a parsley gremolata and buttermilk aioli. The legs were plump and juicy as any I’ve every tasted, and I’ve eaten many. The taste? The meat is like chicken, but even more juicy and easily as delicious.

On one visit my guest was reticent about trying the frog legs, but she did and loved them!  She was also pleased with the blue crab croquettes served with a fresh cilantro remoulade and a jalapeno ginger marinade. The crab is top quality and there is a splashing of lemon, too much for some, but I thought the zing was the crowning touch.

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If you prefer just to graze, The Mill has an interesting choice of cheeses and charcuterie. There’s an ever-changing selection of specialty cheeses called “artisan” and the house charcuterie is beautifully presented with local honeycomb, baby zucchini pickles, foie gras, duck bacon, white anchovies — you get the picture! Order a choice of three, five or seven and a glass of wine or craft beer, and there you have a perfect meal for sharing.

I must caution that the menu does change frequently and there is a potpourri of specials, but to me that is the sign of a great restaurant i.e., a chef that is never satisfied with a mundane menu that never changes.

We sample three of the four salads offered, each one ample for two sharers. My favorite is the Brussel Salad, a potpourri of delights with Brussel leaves, grilled radicchio, snap peas, heirloom tomatoes oven-dried and pickled bell peppers lightly sauced in a burnt scallion vinaigrette. A close second is the Roast Beet Panzanella made with both red and golden beets, a house style burrata which is like an upscale mozzarella, creamy and ethereal. An unusual dressing is the roasted horseradish vinaigrette. Perfection!

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After a few dishes you may be full, but you must continue with the “Second Plates”. Our favorites, on three occasions are the Braised Rabbit & Black currants (be adventurous, you won’t regret it!), Smoke Braised Boar Ribs, Diver Scallops and Meatloaf Wellington, all generously sized. If I had to describe each and every one of these delights, it would take at least another page.

Yet I must mention the amazing Wellington, prepared with quality ground meats, Taleggio cheese, a bourbon yam mash, braised seasonal greens and a lovely smoked mushroom gravy. This dish will easy serve two, though my guest is so impressed that it is difficult to coax him to share with us. After a little arm twisting we each got a few bites.

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Quench your thirst with a good list of wines by the glass, or perhaps one of the original cocktails including The Mill’s original Daiquiri made with Crème de Cacao, “Mill Barrel” Rum and lime juice, a bit off Hemingway’s favorite, but a unique creation. There’s also a good list of specialty drafts, including a “Gwen Stefani” infused with Sailor Jerry, Byrrh and Cappelletti.

For finishers try the deconstructed apple pie or chocolate dessert; it appears all desserts are house made. The tea service is lovely with a good choice of unique blends.

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Servers are efficient, but even better, they’re fun and interesting.  Obviously, they’ve had a good training session since they could easily answer our multitudinous questions about the food and drink. So, if you decide to go, don’t be shy about asking about the offerings.  Staffers will be delighted to expand on the unusual but oh-so exciting menu by the talented Chef.The Mill Restaurant is located at 200 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, FL 33701  727-317-3930   info@themilldtsp.com

Home by Home, Generation to Generation: the History of Albright Landscaping


albright-landscaping-1The year was 1976. My dad, Dan Albright, was a mere fourteen years old. He had an eagle eye for detail, a strong work ethic and a crazy idea: he would veer off the traditional route of skating through school because that was what he was supposed to do. Instead he would do more: he would do what he needed to do. Specifically, he would take his destiny into his own hands, dedicate his life to his work and transform dead spaces into venues where the moments we live for take place. 

He started with clean-ups and cutting grass. Before long, he found his love of working with plants, extending his clients’ homes right into the outdoors, designing tropical paradises and country living spaces alike. Drawn in by the endless possibilities, he let go of maintenance and focused on landscape design and installation full-time. 

Those early days did not come without challenges. One dilemma of the budding business owner was that he was too young to have a driver’s license, yet running trucks was as essential to Albright Landscaping then as it is now. Luckily, his older sister, my aunt Toni, was able to help him in this area. She took the wheel while he navigated from job to job. 

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Although Toni was accepting of my dad’s direction, I imagine that his team were reserved, if not outright sceptical, about such a young lad being their boss. He was able to earn their respect, however, by leading with a hard work ethic, ready to get his hands dirty working alongside and teaching them, while at the same time not shying away from what he didn’t know (or feigning knowledge that he hadn’t acquired yet). He didn’t hesitate at a chance to learn from those around him, frequenting local nurseries to discover more.

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As a result, by the time he was 16, my dad had five trucks and eight employees, all of whom were older than he was. Whether the jobs were big or small, the impact of the outcome was and has always been constant. Most memorable for my dad over the last forty years is his customers’ astonishment with how quickly Albright Landscaping are able to bring dramatic, quality results: “It is always a joy to see their reactions after having just come home from work to see that their yard has completely transformed from whatever they left us with that morning,” he explains, before continuing that “They’ll call or text [him] months after [their job’s completion] just to let [him] know how much they’re enjoying their new landscaping, or that they’ve just had a beautiful wedding or party and all of their guests loved the work we did. That is the most satisfying thing.”

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Those early impressions of high-quality, timely transformations caused the business’ reputation to rise at a steady incline, with my dad building working relationships that still exist today.  “I’ve worked with some of my clients the entire forty years,” he reveals. 

albright-landscpaing-5However, it was not only his growing clientele that he has made lasting connections with, but also other locally run businesses. Building relationships with our suppliers is such an important component of the business, enabling us to know exactly where to obtain the best products for our clients while ensuring that we are able to secure them as well. That is a privilege that can only come with time and trust. 

Towards the end of 1984, as my dad settled in to make his mark on the landscaping industry on his own, everything changed forever: he met a woman named Lisa Morrill. Two weeks later, they were married. 

My mom was the perfect complement to my dad, both in business and in life. She kept him grounded while supporting his vision for Albright Landscaping. Although she didn’t balk at hard labor, often finding herself shovel-in-hand, her expertise shone through most brightly in the office. That is where her impact was the most prominent, adding structure to the framework that my dad had been putting in place over the last seven years.

albright-landscaping-2As they worked together, the business began to grow more rapidly and, along with it, so did the family, first with the dramatic entrance of my eldest brother Danny in 1985, on the very day that Hurricane Elena formed. With their newly born baby boy, my parents were discharged from the hospital early once the mandatory evacuation notice had been issued to the Tampa Bay area. They were forced to seek shelter across the Howard Frankland Bridge as sinister waves threatened their grip on the road. Days later, Danny found himself on his first job while my dad helped restore the homes that had been affected, whether by fallen trees or debris-torn landscapes.

Less theatrical introductions came two and four years later with Matthew and, finally, me. Somehow the addition of three children so close in age actually concentrated our parents’ focus: my dad describes this period of time as one when he and my mom really knew where they wanted to take Albright Landscaping—and, as it has turned out, we would be right there with them, every step of the way.

Our training began early. My parents often took us to Busch Gardens and other amusement parks when we were growing up. My dad would teach us the names of each passing plant as he and my mom were inspired by the surrounding landscapes. By the time we were five years old, we were hard-pressed to find a plant of which we didn’t know the name. 

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Landscaping, and specifically Albright Landscaping, was a central part of our family since its conception. Moreover, it was a key part of our upbringing. My brothers’ version of strong men (read “boys”) competitions ranged from hopping in the back of my dad’s pickup truck and unloading three-gallon plants as quickly as they could to swiping his shovels and finding out who could be the first to dig a hole big enough for a palm tree’s root ball. During this time, we also propagated and grew 20,000 plants per year, right in our small backyard. As Albright Landscaping grew, indeed, so we did along with the roles we played in its success. 

albright-landscpaing-7I managed to escape the Florida heat by following my mom’s footsteps into the office. She was excellent at her job: answering the phones in a welcoming tone, managing the numbers with ease, smoothly making sense of what could be a chaotic job schedule. Her efforts behind the scenes made it possible for Albright Landscaping to live up to its reputation of timely, quality work despite its large size and the great number of projects coming in at the time. There was no better teacher from whom to learn not only what to do and how to do it, but also how to do it better, proactively and while putting your heart into every step.

Likewise, my brothers had the best teacher to learn their trade from, specifically how to design quality landscapes while managing the intricacies involved with bringing those designs to life in record time. Attributing his work ethic to his own father, passing on the knowledge of what it takes to keep the family business progressing has always been important to my dad, even if we didn’t end up applying it to the continuation of Albright Landscaping itself. However, it is not just the skill that he was able to instill, but also the passion for our work. It did not take long for Matthew to become a crew leader with a keen drive to identify areas of improvement and tools that will optimize our clients’ experience. 

In getting to work with our parents, my brothers and I became privy to the expert knowledge that they had been honing since before we were born. We were able to understand key factors that help make a business successful, a lesson that takes many people years of trial and error to learn. What’s more is that we were entrusted with applying those lessons directly to the business, responsible for our progression and impact, whether bad or good. Finally, and perhaps what I am most grateful for, is that we were able to contribute to the success of our family’s business, applying our own passions and letting them flourish. 

My dad is a firm believer that passion is the primary factor that drives us, Albright Landscaping the business and the family, forward. While the quality and efficiency of our work are of course vital, the love for what we do is what sets us apart. “We spend our time between jobs doing our own landscape projects, making our backyard better,” he points out. Albright Landscaping specialize in residential outdoor space transformations because the family behind the business believe that yards are extensions of homes. 

The strong work ethic, dedication and passion that are at the root of Albright Landscaping have proven to be the main ingredients in a recipe for lasting success. Furthermore, they are all qualities that still show in my dad, forty years later, as he tries to take on a more advisory role. 

Keeping him from doing so is that what drew him into landscaping at the start continues to reward him today: his clients’ reactions to Albright Landscaping’s ability to realize the possibilities. “Our clients often text me over the weekend to tell me how much they’re enjoying their new backyards, just to let me know how thankful they are of the work we did for them. That is rewarding. That is what makes us love doing what we do, our clients’ appreciation for it,” my dad reflects, before concluding that “There really is nothing like a satisfied customer.” 

Through our ability to envision and bring to life the possibilities, my family—including our team, who my dad often introduces as his “adopted sons”—have created spaces that enable the necessary day-to-day unwinding as well as backdrops of life events, from birthday parties to weddings and beyond. We feel that doing so allows our family to improve the quality of life of so many families around the Tampa Bay area. 

Celebrating our 40-year anniversary and considering the components that have been constant throughout our time, we are reminded of the transitions that we have undergone as well as the challenges that we have overcome. Most recently, the matriarch of the company and the heart of our family passed away far too soon at just 51 years old. Words fall short in describing with justice the impact that my mom had on us. Our aim is to continue to live and work with the passion that she did, feeling that this is the best way to honor her.

We open this new chapter with my dad divulging the management ins-and-outs to Matthew, who plans on continuing the quality work that Albright Landscaping has been known for over the last four decades. “Our size today allows us to be more personal with and attentive to our clients. With my 11 years’ worth of experience, not to mention being trained under my dad’s 40 years, I want to make sure that every one of our jobs is done to the highest level of quality.” 

And so, our family business enters the second generation. We look forward to getting to work with you over the next 40. 

Story by Melanie Albright 

Real Estate: Over Price Your Property?

The world economy is affecting our beach market, with the exception of the very high end properties. 

The strong U.S. dollar means our Canadian and European clients earn a 30% to 40% bonus for selling their U.S. holdings. Conversely, it costs them more now if they buy here. Many of these prospective buyers are waiting to buy. January beach sales were the lowest number of units in over 18 months. Inventory is increasing, making the market more competitive. When people are confused they tend to do nothing. There is no clear direction for many of us. Get as much info as you can about your market before deciding what’s best for your family. 

Flood insurance increases are making many barrier island properties harder to sell. For many, the option of new construction can be a viable alternative to selling an old flood prone home. GHD Construction Services Inc. just completed a new affordable beach model at 14305 N. Bayshore Dr., Madeira Beach, FL 33708. Their “Bahama Winds” model can be built on almost any lot on our islands. Drive by or call for an appointment to see it.

Each realtor and firm has a slightly different formula for determining how to price your property. Some realtors think sellers will list with them if they agree to list the home at a higher price. Then they lower the price when it does not sell. When a potential client asks our firm to price their home, we view the property, take measurements, note upgrades, provide 5 current listings (what buyers can pay), 5 actual sold properties (what buyers did pay), and 5 expired or withdrawn listings (what buyers refused to pay). These are the most accurate comparably priced properties, (comps) at any given point in time. The homeowner picks the offering price according to their personal motivation to sell. Most of us pick a price higher than suggested to give room for offers. Why is this usually not a good idea? It’s better to price it according to my analysis to make it more competitive with similar properties.“I’d rather turn down 10 offers than get none.” 

beggins-realtyJim

Buyers generally search in $100,000 increments, so $599,000 gets a lot more activity than $601,000, and may facilitate a bidding war with a higher final selling price in the early days of a sales campaign. 

We can raise or lower the listing price according to the number of showings. It pays to know your real value rather than to rely on the internet. The internet cannot yet see all the features of your house nor gauge motivation. We call our pricing system your Strategic Pricing Analysis “SPA”, and it’s free.

For more info and specific advice please attend our weekly ‘Informed Confusion’ 1-hour discussions Tuesdays, 5:30 pm at 5050 Gulf Blvd. in St. Pete Beach. Please RSVP. No sales pitch, just honest information you can use. Selling or buying is a team effort between your REALTOR and yourself. We represent you as if we are you. Come and find out why. We have current market knowledge and we’d like to help. RSVP for my Tuesday discussion or call. Please email or text with questions or topic suggestions.

All the best,

Jim “Property Wizard” Beggins, broker, CENTURY 21 Beggins Enterprises, with 11 offices and 400 agents serve Pinellas, Hillsborough,  Manatee and Sarasota Counties. Since most opinions about real estate can be supported with facts, I will inform you to the best of my ability so you can unconfuse the facts to your personal advantage. I think I can use my  ‘hands on’ experience in Florida real estate since 1970 to achieve your desired outcome.

Please let me know how I’m doing. Call, text or email with any questions.
E
mail: jimbeggins@c21be.com
Cell 727 254 8144

Marineland

In the mid-1930s, a significant event took shape, which had surprisingly similar parallels in my life, well into the 1960s and beyond. In the mid-1930s, a group of wealthy investors approached officials in my native St. Augustine concerning the building of a major attraction there. In as much as the suggested attraction was felt to not be in concert with the historical background of a city which was founded in 1565 by the Spanish, the proposal was turned down.

marineland-instagramRather than abandon the idea, the investors took the very unique approach of acquiring a large tract of then vacant property on the ocean near the county line, having it incorporated into an independent “municipality” electing its own municipal officials, and starting the huge construction project which would soon become known as “Marineland of Florida.”  

When about seven years of age, I held my Dad’s hand and watched as scores of trucks completed delivery of the tons of cement required to construct the giant main tank, the smaller tanks, the main entrance, and the executive offices. The hundreds of viewing windows had to be watertight, and a large paved parking lot provided. On opening day in 1938, some 20,000 visitors attended the opening and marveled at the sight of hundreds of species of underwater life, including the playful dolphin, which were then called “porpoises.”  

We neighborhood kids rode our bicycles six miles, one way, to a salt water lagoon near our homes to watch the secretive training of the first dolphins to enter Marineland’s daily shows. Marineland was also the scene of a feature movie, “Revenge of the Creature”.

(In which I had a romantic “lover’s lane” scene and was the debut of a young man who played a lab technician……his name was Clint Eastwood). It was also the scene of such underwater epics as “Sea Hunt” starring Lloyd Bridges”. It is still in operation today, but as a marine research facility. It was the first of many “oceanariums.”

Next month: The AQUATARIUM opens in St. Pete Beach!

Story by Julian Fant
Photo from the Marineland Instagram. Follow them @MarinelandFL.