Man finds comfort in exploration of gender identity

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He usually shaves his eyebrows and facial hair, uses a credit card to better blend in the makeup and powder blush that highlight his cheekbones.

While he puts his flashy eye makeup on he pauses, squints and purses his red lips. He likes to try different poses, like popping out his hip or flirtatiously putting his fingertips on his rosy cheek.

The process is therapeutic to him. He likes to take his time and closely observe himself. With a makeup brush, he traces the lines of his skinny face, his prominent nose and his pouty lips.

When he is done, Brandon Shuford has transformed himself into India Mirage, his sparkling drag queen persona.

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Old Tampa cigar factory repurposes property, emerges as community cornerstone

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A historic three-story brick building has become a hot spot for artists in Tampa.

Santaella Studio for the ArtsBuilt in 1904 by wealthy cigar maker Antonio Santaella, the building was the home of the Santaella Cigar Factory.

The Santaella Cigar Factory was not only known for being one of the largest and most Babe Ruth at Santaella Cigar Factoryefficiently equipped factories in the city, but also for being Babe Ruth’s favorite place to stock up on cigars.

 

After being vacant for four years, Gray Ellis never thought he’d come to be the owner of such a factory.

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Taco Bus conquers Tampa with its popular Mexican food truck

 

Taco Bus provides Tampa with a unique and authentic dining experience while bringing a little bit of Mexico to the area.

It all started with a single bus 20 years ago. Today, Taco Bus restaurants still offer the same food the owner from Mexico served when he first opened his small business.

“He basically changed the name, added a food truck to it, and now, we’re at five locations,” said Aaron Lucas, the general manager of Taco Bus in Tampa and St. Petersburg.

The modern food truck trend began in 2008 in California. Since then, it has made its way eastward. Taco Bus was one of the first original food trucks in St. Petersburg. Lucas even thinks it might now be the most famous food truck in Florida.

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Datz some good food in Tampa

 

Land O’ Lakes resident Matt Casey travels to South Tampa at least once a month in order to eat at Datz, the local restaurant, bar, and market place.D1

“We just like that feel of being a neighborhood hangout, part market, part restaurant” said Roger Perry, Datz D5co-owner

Datz began serving customers in 2009 and creates dishes such as sandwiches with their home made chips, fried chicken, shrimp and grits and their famous meat loaf which is featured on the Travel Channel.

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“I like the quality of the food and the portion sizes, they’re pretty big” said customer Matt Casey. “Their sandwiches are the best. It’s just good food”

“We call it upscale comfort food” said Perry. “We’re famous for our meatloaf where we take mac and cheese bits and stuff it inside a meatloaf.”

TP_304663_DEAN_DATZ_1Datz has dine-in seating, including tables that can accommodate families of 10 and a back room for private parties. In addition, Datz has two bars which serve beer, wine, and spirits.

“We specialize in beer and bourbon” said bartender Patrick Devries. “We have 30 something different craft beers on tap at all times.”D4

Datz offers many spirits and seasonal drinks that General Manager and Bar Programmer Morgan Zuch creates. In addition to the actual bar, Datz has a large collection of beer tap handles that are on display in the lower bar.

Perry and his wife, other co-owner Suzanne Perry, said the name was created all around the letter ‘z’.

“I always liked the letter ‘z’” said Roger Perry. “The business I retired from was called Petzazz, a popular deli in Columbus is Zingerman’s. So I knew I wanted to start with the ‘z’”.

In 2014, Datz expanded and took over the building next doorD7 where they opened their sister store and bakery, ‘Dough’. Both establishments are open seven days a week and can be found on MacDill Avenue in South Tampa.

Gaspar’s Renovates It’s Tampa Legacy

Posed Photo by Joseph Meier
Joseph Meier

 

It is 1:30 in the morning. Jimmy Ciaccio gets out of his bed and heads to Gaspar’s Bar and Grill — his bar, which belonged to his father before him — to begin his fourth renovation.

“I’ve put my blood, sweat and tears into this place,” said Ciaccio, owner of Gaspar’s Bar and Grill.

Ciaccio could have contracted out the project or delegated it to his employees, but he showed up and worked himself.  From laying down the hardwood floors to hanging doors, Ciaccio built his bar from the ground up.

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Goody Goody, a slice of Tampa’s history to reopen

TAMPA, Fla.– Tampa’s longtime residents will once again take a bite of a burger, or a slice of pie, from the iconic Goody Goody restaurant. Former co-owner, Mike Wheeler, recently sold the restaurant and hopes its history continues.

“One of the motivating reasons of my selling it was that I wanted to see the Goody Goody remain a Tampa tradition,” Wheeler said.

The restaurant is now owned by businessman Richard Gonzmart.

“To sell it to somebody that we felt had high integrity and knew the restaurant business,” Wheeler said. “I think we found just the right person.”

Richard Gonzmart, the co-owner of Columbia Restaurant, used to visit Goody Goody, bringing food home to his family every Sunday. Michael Kilgore, chief marketing officer at Columbia Restaurant, says preserving the business was Gonzmart’s rescue mission.

“He wanted to try to preserve it and so as soon as it happened he started talking to Michael Wheeler about trying to buy the rights to it,” Kilgore said.

Goody Goody was first a drive-in restaurant, giving curb-side service from 1930 until 1984. The curb-side service was removed in late 1984.

A design has not been drafted yet, but it will continue as a family dine-in restaurant. As per the menu, the famous burger “POX”, pickles, onions, and secret sauce, is impossible to replicate, making it unique.

“They’re so unique and different and it’s just not like the hamburger with lettuce and tomato that you find in so many places,” Wheeler said. “They always go with a special…it’s called a ‘POX’, which stands for pickles, onions, and X, that sauce.”

Yvonne Freeman, also known as “the hamburger queen”, worked the last 46 years until 2005 as the manager and the official baker of those delicious pies.

The new location will open in South Tampa sometime in 2015.

Unique Gifts For College Greeks

Phyllis Grae-Nielson has just finished celebrating the 27th anniversary of Greek Unique, her fraternity and sorority based store. Located near the University of South Florida in Tampa, Greek Unique also serves the University of Tampa, St. Leo University and Florida Southern University.

Greek Unique offers hundreds of gift items for almost every fraternity or sorority. However, they are best known for their classic jerseys and made-to-order items.

“We have a lot of different options, we have about 208 different fabrics so people can come in and choose the fabric that we have and they can also bring in their own fabric,” said Cali Sanford, the store manager.

What makes Greek Unique so special is that everything that is made to order, besides the garments, is made by hand. The fraternity and sorority letters that are sewn onto the jerseys are hand cut and put together.

“The main things that we do are double stitch and embroidery, so double stitch is the twill letters that you see that go across most of the people’s shirts and the embroidery is just standard embroidery,” said Sanford.

Greek Unique is also a family-based business. The store was first opened by Grae-Neilson and her two daughters, both USF Alumni. Now it is run by Grae-Neilson and her husband Alistar Nielson, who does the embroidery.

“This is what I’ve been doing for 27 years, and I love it,” said Grae-Nielson.

Greek Unique is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m.  to 6 p.m. and is located at 5025 East Fowler Avenue.

Heroes’ Haven Comics celebrates Halloween ComicFest

Halloween ComicFest is celebrated the Saturday before Halloween in designated comic shops around the world. Since 2012, Halloween Comicfest allows comic book fans to get involved in new comics by handing out free specialty Halloween comics ranging from Batman to Archie to My Little Pony. Most comic stores simply hand out free comics, but Heroes’ Haven Comics puts on an exhibition inviting families and fans. Heroes’ Haven Comics, a “Best of the Bay” winner, brings local and big name artists to the event for signings and commission work. They even hold a costume contest.

Coral Skies Music Festival entertains with national headliners Cage the Elephant

The Coral Skies Music Festival brought talented musicians, gifted artist and delicious food to Tampa on Saturday Oct. 25. With headliners such as Cage the Elephant and Bombay Bicycle Club, Coral Skies provided an experience that pleased fans that were still reminiscing about Big Guava. The real stars of the festival were the fans that each had an interesting story about what Coral Skies meant to them and turned a music festival into it’s own world.

Brickworld Tampa 2014 shows off amazing Lego creations

Brickworld was held the past weekend at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa. LEGO enthusiasts were encouraged to attend and to bring the kids for a wonderful learning experience and chance to build your own creations. People of all ages roamed the isles to get a better look at the exhibits. LEGO engineers came together to form teams and were happy to finally show off their work at the Brickworld Exhibition.

On The Streets: Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks

The sponge industry saved the Greek community of the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks, providing them a place to share their handmade items, food and culture. (Photo by Elizabeth Engasser)
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