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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. Retailers continue to struggle with no saving grace in sight

    Retail

    I've written the phrase "it's been a tough year for retail" more times than I can remember.

    Not to sound redundant, but yeah, it's been a very tough year for retail. And it's only April.

    Retail jobs fell by 30,000 in March, more than any other industry sector, according to the most recent U.S. jobs report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Macy's announced it would close more stores, including the one that recently shuttered at University Mall in Tampa. The Sears department store closed at Tyrone Square Mall after nearly 50 years of operating there to make room for a future Lucky's Market and Dick's Sporting Goods. And with debt piling up, the future of what was once a household brand name, Sears, is as uncertain as ever....

    A sign on the door of the former Sears store at the Tyrone Square Mall, St. Petersburg, announces the future opening of Dick's Sporting Goods in the space. Lucky's Market will also open there. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  2. Meet Florida's legal drug cartels

    Perspective

    While Florida voters have overwhelmingly voted to make medical marijuana legal, it's up to the Legislature to translate how it will work. There's a lot at stake. It may seem like a basic humanitarian issue for patients who want simple and affordable access to medical marijuana. But it's not. Why? For one, medical marijuana is projected to become a $1 billion industry in Florida within the next three years....

    Kim Rivers,
CEO of Trulieve
  3. Airbnb bookings spike in Florida for MLB spring training

    Tourism

    Airbnb hosts in Tampa Bay and across Florida saw a significant bump in bookings during the spring training baseball season this year.

    Florida's Grapefruit League — which brings 15 Major League Baseball teams to 12 Florida cities, including Dunedin, Clearwater and Tampa — saw significant spikes in bookings over a five-week stretch, according a press release Wednesday. Dunedin, which is home to the Toronto Blue Jays during the spring months, recorded a 205 percent spike in bookings. Port Charlotte in Charlotte County, where the Tampa Bay Rays play, saw a 78 percent spike. Clearwater, which hosts the Philadelphia Phillies, experienced a 62 percent increase in bookings this year. And in Tampa, where the New York Yankees play, Airbnb recorded a 32 percent jump....

    Airbnb saw a spike in room bookings in Florida cities like Dunedin, Clearwater and Tampa related to the MLB spring training season. 
[WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  4. Promoting a work family propels Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel to a No. 1 ranking

    Working Life

    Mary Anne Casale has greeted patients and visitors from behind the concierge desk at Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel since the day it first opened in 2012.

    Casale, 74, directs anxious family members and recovering patients to the right doctor or department within the hospital.

    "I'm the first person they see when they come here," says Casale, who lives nearby in San Antonio. "It feels good to be able to help them." ...

    Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel President and CEO Denyse Bales-Chubb stands for a portrait along the hospital's third floor atrium view. Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel is the No. 1 employer in the large category for Top Workplaces this year.
[BRENDAN FITTERER  |  Special to the Times]
  5. Today is Equal Pay Day and in Florida, many women are fed up with the wage gap

    Retail

    Today is Equal Pay Day and women in Florida are fed up.

    It has been 54 years since the Equal Pay Act became law in the United States, which states that men and women should receive equal wages for equal work. But in 2017, that's still far from reality. On average, women make 79 cents for every dollar a man earns in the United States, according to the American Association of University Women. In Florida, the gender pay gap starts at 85 cents. It widens for women of color, research shows....

    The Business and Professional Women St. Petersburg-Pinellas chapter on Tuesday will host its 14th annual Unhappy Hour at the Ruth's Chris Steakhouse at the Sundial plaza in downtown St. Petersburg. The event, which begins at 5:30 p.m., is open to anyone who wants to discuss the pay gap and how to fix it. [Photo courtesy of Business and Professional Women St. Petersburg-Pinellas chapter]
  6. Developers break ground on new Marriott hotel on Rocky Point

    Tourism

    TAMPA — Officials broke ground on a 10-story hotel on Rocky Point Drive in Tampa this week. Hotel developers, Lifsey Real Estate & Holdings Inc. and Pinnacle Hotel Management, held a ground breaking ceremony Thursday to celebrate the start of construction on a new hotel called Current, an Autograph Collection Hotel by Marriott, located at 2500 North Rocky Point Dr., in Tampa.

    The companies are co-developing the property and it will be managed by Pinnacle. It is slated to open in the fall of next year....

    Hotel developers, Lifsey Real Estate & Holdings Inc. and Pinnacle Hotel Management, held a ground breaking ceremony Thursday to celebrate the start of construction on a new hotel called Current, an Autograph Collection Hotel by Marriott, located at 2500 North Rocky Point Dr., in Tampa.
  7. Marine Discovery Center aims to raise awareness of marine research in St. Pete

    Business

    ST. PETERSBURG — When the Pier Aquarium closed along with a handful of other businesses inside the infamous inverted pyramid building on St. Petersburg's waterfront, Mark Luther thought a new aquarium would be up and running in a new location within a year or two.

    But it's been almost four years since the pier closed, and the longtime aquarium has only just recently secured a new home Finally plans are moving forward for a marine research visitors center to open at the St. Pete Port....

    The Marine Discovery Center will take over the 8,000-square-foot former cruise terminal at the St. Pete Port. The lease begins April 1. [Renderings courtesy of the Pier Aquarium Inc.]
  8. Suffolk Construction to open office in Tampa's Channelside Bay Plaza

    Business

    TAMPA — A national construction firm will open a fourth Florida office at Channelside Bay Plaza in downtown Tampa next month.

    Boston-based Suffolk Construction announced Thursday it will open a 4,500-square-foot office at Channelside Bay Plaza in downtown Tampa in April. About 20 employees will work from the site, which will be the construction firm's fourth location in the state. ...

    Suffolk Construction will open a 4,500-square-foot office in Channelside Bay Plaza in April. This is the firm's fourth office in Florida. James Burchuck | TIMES.
  9. Could you lose your job for testing positive for marijuana if you're a patient in Florida? Maybe

    Economic Development

    As Florida legislators consider passing laws this year to regulate the new and growing medical marijuana industry, employers in the state are still faced with mounting grey areas in how to handle employment policies related to drug use.

    There are more questions than answers for companies big and small, which enforce a drug-free workplace policy with their employees, said Greg Hearing, a shareholder with the Thompson, Sizemore, Gonzalez & Hearing law firm in Tampa. Hearing, who specializes in employment law, published an article in the Florida Bar Journal last month with his associate, Michael Balducci, outlining what employers need to know....

    Gregory A. Hearing is a shareholder for Thompson, Sizemore, Gonzalez & Hearing, P.A. He practices employment & labor law for public and private sector clients across the country. 
[Photo courtesy of  Thompson, Sizemore, Gonzalez & Hearing, P.A.]
  10. 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]
  11. 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]

  12. HSN drops jewelry company accused of cheating its artisans

    Retail

    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 DebbieFarah.com]
  13. Winn-Dixie axes Fuel Perks, to roll out new loyalty program with broader discounts

    Retail

    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]
  14. Gas prices could drop by 10 cents soon in Tampa Bay

    Retail

    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.
  15. Tampa gets new nonstop daily flight to Salt Lake City on Delta

    Airlines

    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]