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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


Twitter: @SunBizGriffin

  1. Florida Senate approves bill to let grocery outlets sell hard liquor in stores

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Floridians are one step closer to being able to buy whiskey, rum or vodka in a grocery store.

    Legislators passed the "whiskey to Wheaties" bill in the Florida Senate Thursday which will allow grocery stores like Publix or Walmart to sell hard liquor on the shelves next to beer and wine instead of in a separate liquor store with its own entrance.

    Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, who sponsored the bill in the Senate (SB106), said that the current Prohibition-era law is "archaic" and called for passing legislation that is more relevant and convenient for consumers in Florida. ...

    The Florida Senate on Thursday approved a measure which would allow grocery stores like Publix to sell hard liquor on the shelves next to beer and wine instead of in a separate liquor store. [TImes file photo]
  2. Forecast: Florida job creation slowing down this year

    Economic Development

    TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Chamber of Commerce predicts that the rising streak of job creation in the state is behind us.

    Jerry Parrish, the Florida Chamber of Commerce's chief economist, forecasts that Florida will create 190,000 new jobs in 2017, down from the 244,400 jobs created last year.

    Parrish told a group during the chamber's Capitol Days event in Tallahassee Tuesday that job creation in Florida peaked in April 2016. But uncertainty in the Florida Legislature — including the shaky fate of the state's economic development organization Enterprise Florida — is tipping the scales....

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott, left, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R- Land O' Lakes, right, have been locked in a bitter battle over the fate of Enterprise Florida. The Florida Chamber predicts a slowdown in job creation in part because companies fear the jobs incentive program is in peril.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  3. HSN drops jewelry company accused of cheating its artisans


    ST. PETERSBURG — HSN is ending its business relationship with Bajalia International Group, an Orlando jewelry company accused of cheating female artisans it works with in developing countries.

    A spokesman at HSN told the Tampa Bay Times late Thursday that the television retailer had completed a three-month-long internal investigation into Bajalia International this week. The review was prompted by questions from a Times reporter. HSN declined to comment on details of the internal review. ...

    Debbie Farah, the founder and CEO of Bajalia International Group, is shown in this undated photo featuring Bajalia products on HSN. HSN said it has decided to no longer do business with Bajalia International following a months-long investigation.
[Photo from]
  4. Winn-Dixie axes Fuel Perks, to roll out new loyalty program with broader discounts


    Maybe you've already seen the Shell billboards that have popped up along major interstates in Central Florida which say the popular Winn-Dixie Fuel Perks program is on its way out.

    By the end of April, shoppers' Winn-Dixie loyalty cards and the points they've earned from shopping at Winn-Dixie stores won't get them a discount at Shell gas stations anymore.

    Winn-Dixie is announcing today that it's replacing its Fuel Perks program with a partnership through Plenti, a company that allows users to collect points as they shop, which can be redeemed through a network of major retailers, from Macy's to Exxon Mobil. Southeastern Grocers, Winn-Dixie's parent company, is the first supermarket company to use its program....

    Ian McLeod, CEO of the parent company of Winn-Dixie, Southeastern Grocers, poses with a new Winn-Dixie Rewards with Plenti card. Winn-Dixie is rolling out a new loyalty program with the company, Plenti, which will replace the Fuel Perks program with Shell gas stations.
[Photo courtesy of Southeastern Grocers]
  5. Gas prices could drop by 10 cents soon in Tampa Bay


    Consumers can expect some relief at the pump soon, AAA experts say, as they are predicting prices could drop up to 10 cents in the coming weeks.

    Gas prices have hovered around $2.15 a gallon in the Tampa Bay area for the past week or so, but an unlikely downward trend in prices is expected to continue through the busy spring break travel season, according to a press release.

    The drop in prices is attributed to the falling price of oil, which had remained steady all year up until last week....

    A recent unexpected drop in oil prices is likely to give drivers a break at the pump. The downward trend may not last, AAA said.
  6. Tampa gets new nonstop daily flight to Salt Lake City on Delta


    Delta Airlines is launching a new nonstop daily flight from Tampa International Airport to Salt Lake City starting Dec. 21.

    Salt Lake City has been a coveted route that Tampa airport officials have been trying to bring back to the market for years. Four months ago, airport officials listed Salt Lake City as one of nine top markets they planned to target for new service. Service to Salt Lake City from Tampa was eliminated years ago when Delta downsized its hub operations in Utah....

    Delta Airlines announced a new nonstop daily flight to and from Tampa and Salt Lake City. THe service will begin on Dec. 21. [Associated Press file photo]
  7. For Tampa entrepreneur Roberto Torres, his Blind Tiger Cafe venture is just getting started


    TAMPA — When the Blind Tiger Cafe opens its newest coffee shop on S. Howard Avenue in South Tampa this summer, it'll be less than a mile away from a busy Starbucks right up the street.

    Just a few blocks in the other direction is a Buddy Brew Coffee in Hyde Park Village and there's another not far on Kennedy Boulevard.

    But Roberto Torres, owner of the Blind Tiger Cafe, isn't worried about his business. Coffee, like craft beer and the many other local foodie trends that have helped reshape the restaurant and retail landscape of Tampa Bay in recent years, is only just getting started....

    The Blind Tiger coffee machine at Diamond View Studios currently provides two different drinks: Nitro Cold Brew and a margarita-flavored kombucha. Diamond View Studios is one of five companies that uses the Blind Tiger's corporate coffee program, which provides "kegs" of cold brew and hot coffee options for the office. [ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times]
  8. Top Port Tampa Bay official Ed Miyagishima leaves for Medal of Honor Convention


    Ed Miyagishima, the vice president of communications and external affairs at Port Tampa Bay, is leaving the port to take a leading role with the 2019 Medal of Honor Convention.

    Miyagishima, who has served as a senior adviser to port CEO Paul Anderson, shared the news Wednesday evening on Facebook.

    "I'd like to thank Paul Anderson, and the entire staff at Port Tampa Bay for their friendship and leadership during my time at the Port for the last four years," Miyagishima wrote. "I'm humbled and excited for this new chapter, which will allow me to represent and showcase the American heroes and military community I love and honor, in the city I'm proud to call home."...

    Ed Miyagishima was at Port Tampa Bay for four years and advised port CEO Paul Anderson.
  9. It may be legal now, but opening a medical marijuana store in Florida is harder than you think


    TAMPA — The Surterra Therapeutics storefront on Fowler Avenue doesn't look like the kind of place where people can buy pot.

    There's no green marijuana leaves lit in neon lights nor blacked-out windows. No security guard is checking IDs at the front door. Visitors don't have to be escorted into another room to see the product.

    And that's on purpose.

    As one of seven select companies licensed to grow, manufacture, distribute and sell marijuana in Florida, Surterra Holdings Inc. executives are used to explaining that they're not in business to be another smoke shop. But that's tough to do when even the bank lenders, real estate brokers, landlords and insurance agents are wary of doing business with them....

    Private consultation rooms at Surterra Wellness Center, 2558 E Fowler Ave, Tampa.
[CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]
  10. Busch Gardens new president faces headwinds in amusement park industry


    TAMPA — After spending more than 30 years working at SeaWorld Entertainment parks across the country, Busch Gardens' newest park president, Stewart Clark, still wasn't prepared for the backlash he and his family faced after the release of the documentary, Blackfish.

    Clark's wife, Kelly Flaherty Clark, a longtime animal trainer and spokeswoman at SeaWorld, was prominently featured defending SeaWorld in the documentary from 2013, which explored the controversy over captive killer whales and the death of a SeaWorld trainer....

    Stewart Clark poses for a portrait at Busch Gardens in Tampa. Clark recently became the new CEO and president of Busch Gardens.
[CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]

  11. Tampa Bay's first Sprouts Farmers Market opens Wednesday


    TAMPA — The first thing I noticed when I walked into the Sprouts Farmers Market in the Carrollwood Commons shopping plaza in Tampa Tuesday was the produce section.

    Avocados. Dozens of colorful kinds of peppers. Limes, oranges and lemons. I've toured many grocery stores during my tenure as a retail reporter: Earth Fare when it opened in Seminole, Lucky's Market in Naples, Whole Foods 365 in Seattle, just to name a recent few. But the produce department in Sprouts is hard to miss. Located right in the middle of the store, it's one of the biggest I've seen. ...

    Sprouts Farmers Market will open a store in Carrollwood on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Sprouts Farmers Market.
  12. Why would these two St. Petersburg entrepreneurs want to open a used bookstore in the Internet age?


    ST. PETERSBURG —The age of Amazon and online shopping has left a litany of retail casualties in its wake.

    Bookstores in particular have been hit hard by online marketplaces where shoppers can virtually find any book they want and have it shipped to their home with just a few clicks of the mouse.

    But that doesn't deter Tim Russell and Bobby Hauske, who are about to open a used bookstore in Tyrone Square Mall next month....

    Tim Russell, foreground, and his partner Bobby Hauske, sort through books at the warehouse at 4143 118th Ave N in Clearwater. The business is a reseller of used books which are catalogued and resold by the company at a high volume on The company in March is opening a used bookstore at the Tyrone Square Mall, with plans to have more than 100,000 books on the shelves.

  13. Winn-Dixie is beefing up its private label brands


    Southeastern Grocers, the parent company of Winn-Dixie, is rolling out a new and revamped line of private label products in its latest bid to stand out in a sea of grocery shopping options.

    So Winn-Dixie, Bi-Lo, Fresco Y Mas and Harvey's shoppers can expect to see and taste thousands of new and updated private label products in nearly all store departments, from household goods to canned vegetables. Some stores already have a few of these new items on the shelves. ...

    Southeastern Grocers President and CEO Ian McLeod shows off the new "Kitchen" area in their newly remodeled Hyde Park grocery store.  Winn Dixie recently accounced its new line of private label products. 
  14. Carnival Paradise to sail to Cuba from Tampa


    TAMPA — Carnival is the latest cruise line to offer cruises to Cuba from Port Tampa Bay.

    The Carnival Paradise ship will begin offering voyages from Tampa to Cuba beginning June 29, the cruise line announced Tuesday.

    The overnight visits to Havana will be featured on 12 different four- and five-day cruises from Tampa.

    Four-day cruises will depart June 29, July 13, Aug. 24, Sept. 7 and 21, and Oct. 5 and 19, as well as May 3, 2018, and include a daytime and overnight visit to Havana. Five-day voyages will depart Aug. 14 and 28, Sept. 25 and Oct. 9, and include a daytime and overnight visit to Havana as well as a stop in either Cozumel or Key West....

    The Carnival Paradise ship will begin offering voyages from Tampa to Cuba beginning June 29.

  15. Virage Bayshore takes shape at former Colonnade site on Tampa's Bayshore Boulevard

    Real Estate

    The condominium tower under construction at the former site of the Colonnade restaurant on Bayshore Boulevard has a name: Virage Bayshore.

    The Virage Bayshore will be a 24-story, 71-unit tower with views of Hillsborough Bay and the downtown Tampa skyline. The site at 3401 Bayshore Blvd. is considered the last unclaimed parcel on Bayshore Boulevard zoned to be a high-rise tower, according to a press release. ...

    A rendering of the condominium tower planned for the site of the former Colonnade restaurant on Bayshore Boulevard. Photos courtsey of Virage Bayshore.