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Justine Griffin, Times Staff Writer

Justine Griffin

Justine Griffin covers retail business and tourism for the Tampa Bay Times. She is a native Floridian who spent most of her childhood in Pasco County. Prior to coming to the Times in 2015, she worked for the St. Augustine Record, the Sun Sentinel and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, where she gained national attention for her retail coverage and for a longform article she wrote about her experience as an egg donor. Justine is a graduate of the University of Central Florida, where she studied journalism. She's an equestrian. Her horse is named Belinda.

Phone: (727) 893-8467

Email: jgriffin@tampabay.com

Twitter: @SunBizGriffin

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  1. Memorial Day sales not enough to draw shoppers to Tampa Bay malls

    Retail

    TAMPA — Memorial Day sales at Tampa Bay area malls were not enough to compete with the beach and backyard barbecues this holiday weekend.

    Even the busiest malls in Tampa, like Westshore Plaza and International Plaza, were mostly quiet on Memorial Day, which historically has been a boon for retailers who offer some serious seasonal sales over the long weekend.

    "This is the busiest we've been all day," a store clerk at the Francesca's boutique in Westshore Plaza told me early Monday afternoon, when it was just me, her and one other customer in the store at the time. "I guess everyone is out at the beach."...

    Memorial Day sales weren't enough to draw shoppers to Tampa Bay area malls over the long weekend. 
[JUSTINE GRIFFIN | Times]
  2. Tampa International Airport morphing into a mini-city unto itself

    Airlines

    TAMPA — By the end of the 2026, Joe Lopano wants Tampa International Airport to function as its own little city.

    By then, airport officials would have spent more than $2 billion on improvements and new amenities in the terminals and around the airport property as part of a master plan overhaul. The airport would become the landlord not only of nearby International Plaza, which sits on airport-owned land, but also to a host of hotels and office buildings, retailers and restaurants even closer to the terminals. ...

    Artist rendering of Phase II of the $1 billion construction expansion of Tampa International Airport. The airport is transforming 17 acres of airport property that will include at least one hotel, retail and office space, expanded curbside and a gas station, among other things. 
[Courtesy of Tampa International Airport}
  3. Kidpreneurs — and adults — capitalize on gooey, squishy Slime craze

    Retail

    First it was Play-Doh. Then Gak. There have been dozens of variations for sale of the oozy, gooey, squishable, stretchable kids' toy through the generations.

    Kids these days call it slime. Butter slime. Fluffy slime. Avalanche slime. Glitter slime. And they don't buy it prepackaged at a store in the mall. They make it at home, share their colorful, sticky creations through videos on Instagram and sell it on Etsy.com....

    A special slime made by Berlyn Perdomo and her friend, Aletheia Venator, both 13, who make and sell slime which can be seen on their instagram site @the.real.slimeshadyy .
[JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  4. Siesta Beach tops Dr. Beach's rankings of best locations in America

    Tourism

    Three beaches in Florida made it on a highly coveted list of the top 10 in America this year, ranked by Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a.k.a. "Dr. Beach."

    Siesta Beach in Sarasota took the No. 1 spot while Caladesi Island State Park in Pinellas County landed at No. 7. Grayton Beach State Park in the Panhandle came in at No 4.

    Siesta Beach, won the top spot for the second time for its "finest, whitest sand in the world," and its "clear, clean waters along this gently-sloping beach-face" which make it ideal for swimming, according to a press release. ...

    This May 18, 2017 photo shows Siesta Beach on Siesta Key in Sarasota, Fla. Siesta Beach is No. 1 on the list of best beaches for the summer of 2017 compiled by Stephen Leatherman, also known as Dr. Beach, a professor at Florida International University. [Chris O'Meara | Associated Press]
  5. Kahwa Coffee to open second drive-thru store in St. Petersburg

    Retail

    Kahwa Coffee will open its 12th location and fourth with a drive-thru in a former "farm store" in St. Petersburg.

    The new St. Petersburg location will open by late July at 5820 9th Avenue N., in a 410-square-foot, T-shaped building built in 1962. The building was used as a farm store, which sold fresh produce and other goods until the mid-1980s, according to a press release. Kahwa plans to restore the building in a way that will pay homage to the building's original purpose. ...

    Kahwa Coffee will open its 12th location and fourth with a drive-thru in a former "farm store" in St. Petersburg.
[Times file photo]

  6. Department store chain from Puerto Rico coming to University Mall

    Retail

    TAMPA — Grand's, a department store chain from Puerto Rico, will open inside the former Dillard's space at University Mall in September.

    Grand's has 25 locations in Puerto Rico and one in Orlando. The chain sells a variety of items, from household goods to clothes to perfume and other items.

    Dillard's announced in April that it would move into the former Macy's space at University Mall to take advantage of its better visibility along Fowler Avenue. Macy's shuttered the department store earlier this year as part of a slew of nationwide closures. ...

    Grand's, a department store chain from n Puerto Rico, will open inside the former Dillard's space at University Mall in Tampa in September. Coloring rendering of revamped University Mall.
[CBRE Group]
  7. Tampa International Airport has best spring break season ever

    Airlines

    Tampa International Airport had the busiest spring break travel season in its history during the months of March and April, surpassing its previous record from 2007 by more than 50,000 passengers.

    In March, the Tampa airport served 1.9 million passengers, making it the busiest month at the airport, according to a press release. In April, the airport served 1.7 million passengers, bringing the two-month total to nearly 3.8 million total travelers. ...

    Tampa International Airport had its busist spring break travel season on record this year.  (CHRIS ZUPPA | Times)
  8. Will the new meal kits at Publix rival Blue Apron and HelloFresh? We put it to the test

    Retail

    First it was grocery delivery with Instacart. Next it was adding Starbucks kiosks inside some stores. Now Publix Supermarkets is piloting a new meal kit program, similar to what consumers see from popular online companies like Blue Apron and HelloFresh, with individualized portions for meals.

    Publix has been testing the kits at the store at Shoppes at Citrus Park in Tampa, located at 7835 Gunn Highway, and another in Orlando since March. The meal kits, which are offered at three different price points and require varying levels of cooking, are an extension of the Lakeland-based grocer's long standing Aprons Simple Meals program. Each day employees create fresh dinner options which can serve a family of four. There are six different meals to choose from, two for each pricing tier. The kits are billed as dinner for a family in six steps or less. Prices vary from $9.99 for a bratwurst meal with sauerkraut, potato salad and baked beans, to $19.99 for a pork dish with mushrooms and a Brie sauce over mashed potatoes. The middle tier costs $11.99. ...

    Publix is piloting a meal kits program at its store in Citrus Park. Consumers can grab a bag to go that has all the instructions and ingredients needed to make dinner for a family of four in six steps or less.
 [JUSTINE GRIFFIN | Times]
  9. Retirees on St. Pete Beach have big plans for the medical marijuana industry

    News

    While Florida politicians have butted heads over how to regulate the growing medical marijuana industry this year, Tom Murphy and Michael Welch have been busy working behind the scenes to try to ensure their company gets a piece of it.

    Murphy, 71, and Welch, 79, are two of the founders of Gulf Coast Canna Meds, a burgeoning medical marijuana company in St. Petersburg that wants to distribute cannabis products to patients in Florida. They're just one of many groups in Florida eager to be part of this growing new medical industry. But that's easier said than done....

    Here are some of the members of Gulf Coast Canna Meds. (From left to right) back row, Michael Welch, Thomas J. Murphy,  Lonnie Orns,  Oscar Mouton and front row Andrew Hano, MD, Linda Colindres, RN; and David Kitenplon pose for a portrait at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg.
[EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  10. Ten Walmart stores being updated throughout Tampa Bay

    Retail

    PALM HARBOR — The Walmart Supercenter in Palm Harbor is the latest in the chain to get a new look.

    Walmart has remodeled three supercenters in the Tampa Bay area so far this year and plans to renovate a total of 10 neighborhood markets and supercenters in the area and 42 across Florida by the end of the year, a spokeswoman said. These multi-million dollar renovations — which range from new, interactive electronics departments to redesigned baby sections and expanded produce coolers — are meant to update aging stores in the region. ...

    The Walmart Supercenter in Palm Harbor is the latest in the chain to get a new look. 
[Times file photo]
  11. The Florida Aquarium hires new CEO from Chicago

    Tourism

    TAMPA — The Florida Aquarium has hired Roger Germann to be the organization's next president and chief executive officer.

    Germann, 48, was previously the executive vice president of the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago for 16 years and also served as an advisory board member to the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office. He most recently worked as a principal at a Chicago consulting firm, Four Lions Strategies. He will begin the new job in Tampa on June 5. ...

    Roger Germann is the new CEO of the Florida Aquarium. 
[Photo courtesy of the Florida Aquarium]
  12. Here's why Pinellas officials don't want to celebrate National Tourism Week

    Tourism

    ST. PETERSBURG — Every year during National Tourism Week, hospitality industry professionals gather to recognize the success stories and stand-out leaders of their local hotel and attraction community.

    But this year — after a tumultuous battle with the Florida Legislature over the future of the state's tourism marketing program — the local travel industry folks from Pinellas County just weren't in the mood. ...

    Early morning beach visitors walk along Sunset Beach, Treasure Island, in this March photo. Pinellas tourism officials, smarting from a rejection in the state Legislature, don't want to celebrate National Tourism Week this week.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  13. Lutz and New Port Richey residents evacuate as fire rages in Starkey Wilderness Preserve

    News

    Some Tampa Bay area residents were forced to abandon their homes or avoid stretches of highways Saturday as several wildfires raged in Pasco and Hillsborough counties.

    Residents in Lutz and New Port Richey evacuated their homes for a few hours as a wind-whipped 1,000-acre wildfire burned across the Starkey Wilderness Preserve in Pasco County. Three separate wildfires in Hills-borough County closed Interstate 75 to motorists for hours near Fletcher Avenue and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. The recent fires are due at least in part to a statewide dry spell that has led to more than 100 wildfires in Florida and burn bans in several counties, including Pasco, Hernando and Hillsborough....

    Southwest Florida Soil and Water Management and Florida Forest Service workers stand by to assist at the 1,000-acre fire Saturday at the Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park in New Port Richey.
  14. Sparked by Amazon, cargo business growing at Tampa International Airport

    Airlines

    Tampa International Airport's cargo business is growing, thanks in large part to the online retailer, Amazon.

    Seattle-based Amazon has opened two enormous distribution centers in the greater Tampa Bay area. To supply those warehouses with merchandise, Amazon is shipping goods to Tampa International Airport daily aboard a Boeing 767 cargo freighter plane.

    It's a lucrative arrangement for Tampa's airport, which has seen a spike of more than 20 percent in cargo activity over the last year. The Amazon deal alone has generated more than $275,500 in revenue for the airport through fees and building rental payments, which continues to go up....

    Amazon packages are loaded from an ABX plane onto Amazon Prime trucks  at Tampa International Airport in Tampa.
 [ZACK WITTMAN  |  Times]
  15. St. Petersburg hosting gay, lesbian tourism conference for the first time

    Tourism

    ST. PETERSBURG — Already home to the largest gay pride event in the state, St. Petersburg this week is hosting the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association's Annual Global Convention for the first time.

    Nearly 400 tour operators, travel agents, travel journalists and airline and cruise ship representatives that cater to the LGBTQ tourism community will be at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club through Sunday....

    Already home to the largest gay pride event in the state, St. Petersburg this week is hosting the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association's Annual Global Convention for the first time.
[BOYZELL HOSEY   |   Times]