Axios Tampa Bay

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Friday! You made it.

🌀️ Mostly sunny. 76°/62°.

  • Sounds like: "Top Off," DJ Khaled ft. BeyoncΓ©, JAY Z, Future.

πŸŽ‚ Happy early birthday to our Axios Tampa Bay member James Vestal!

Today's newsletter is 891 words, a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Helping entrepreneurs go "full throttle"

Energetic Exotics chauffeur Carl with one of the company's luxury vehicles. Photo:Courtesy of Energetic Exotics

Marlon and Jessica Wentworth walked into a Tampa car dealership in 2019 with their life savings and a dream. To make it come true, they needed a Mercedes-Maybach.

The stakes: The couple wanted to bring the luxury car rental industry they saw boom in Miami to Tampa Bay. But in a highly competitive industry, they had no support.

  • So with $150,000 of their retirement funds, they bet on that dream car.
  • "I was thinking, 'Man, this better work out,'" Marlon recalled.

The payoff: Five years later, the Maybach is part of the Energetic Exotics fleet in the Wentworths' chauffeur and rental service.

  • The couple owns 12 other luxury vehicles and broker more than 100 more across four locations around the state.

The latest: Now, the couple has a chance to share their experience with other budding entrepreneurs.

  • Last year, they started partnering with a new nonprofit, Tampa Entrepreneurs, to sponsor free community events and offer professional mentorship.
  • Energetic Exotics will be at the center of the group's "Full Throttle" event on March 14, showing off their fleet and giving rides on the raceway at The Enclaves.

Between the lines: The risk they took worked out, but Marlon says he would do things differently if he could go back.

  • "If I had a mentor or knew someone in this industry who was willing to guide me in the right direction it would have been a much smoother process."

The bottom line: You don't always have to go it alone. "Collaborate with other companies. Talk to other people and invite them in to listen and understand what you're doing," Marlon said.

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2. Temple Terrace's downtown woes

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

The cornerstone of Temple Terrace's downtown revival project is crumbling, the Tampa Beacon reports.

Why it matters: The Fountain Shoppes, a retail strip once expected to boost the city's downtown, is now suffering from poor upkeep and waste management issues that aren't getting any attention.

  • The property has seven code violations β€” and after months of unanswered letters, emails and phone calls, the city is taking its developer to court.

Catch up fast: The Fountain Shoppes features popular businesses like Chase Bank, Starbucks, and Rocking Crab Seafood and Bar.

  • Its developer, Jared Moon, faced many issues while working on the project β€” including COVID-related delays and rising construction costs. "I would not do it again," he tells the Beacon, adding it's "not at all profitable."
  • Per the Beacon, city officials believe Moon's unhappiness is clear from the property's condition: Garbage is "everywhere," and the titular fountain sits out of order, with murky water.

Keep reading: The city's case against Moon

3. The Pulp: Waning woke war

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

🚫 Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo killed four bills that were legislative priorities of the state GOP, including bans on the government display of Pride flags and removing Confederate memorials. (Tallahasee Democrat)

  • Her remarks are the latest signal that, as we reported earlier this week, Florida's war on "woke" appears to be waning.

πŸ’° Tampa City Council members voted unanimously to pay $17 million to Robert DuBoise, who spent 37 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit. (Tampa Bay Times)

πŸš— A 2024 Corvette Stingray convertible is set to be raffled off at the Florida Strawberry Festival, which runs from Feb. 29 to March 10 in Plant City. (Bay News 9)

⚧️ Florida is one of several Republican-led states that has shifted its focus from limiting LGBTQ+ rights for minors to restricting health care and public expression for transgender adults. (Washington Post)

4. Things to do this weekend

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

πŸ” The Florida State Fair's food tour: There are nearly two dozen new items this year, from a bacon waffle cheeseburger to banana cream pie nachos. The fair runs through Monday.

  • Tickets are $16 on the weekend.

🀘 The Gasparilla Music Festival: The annual event takes place at Julian B Lane Riverfront Park and features 50 bands. It kicks off today and ends on Sunday.

  • You can buy tickets here.

🍫 Tampa Bay Chocolate Festival: Port Richey's Gulf View Square Mall will host a two-day chocolate festival featuring over 100 vendors from across the U.S. with live entertainment on Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 8pm.

More: Dali after dark and festivals, from Renaissance to collard greens

Sponsored event listings

Stay booked and busy

πŸ“… Upcoming events around the city.

Friends of the New Tampa Regional Library Book Sale on February 24: The Friends of the New Tampa Regional Library invite you to their giant Book Sale. Thousands of quality used books will be on sale, most for 50 cents each. Proceeds from the book sale will fund events and classes for people of all ages.

Hosting an event? Email [email protected].

5. πŸ’° 1 island to go

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Ever wanted to own an island? Now's your chance.

What's happening: Pine Key, better known as Beer Can Island, is for sale, the Tampa Bay Times reported. It includes the nine-acre island about two miles off Apollo Beach plus 60 acres of submerged land.

  • The listing price is $14.2 million, according to the Times and a news release issued yesterday by the Tampa-based Judge PR.

Yes, but: A website shared in the Times story says the island will go on auction next month and be awarded to the highest bidder. The owners are accepting offers in cash or cryptocurrency.

Catch up quick: The island had no amenities until the last few years; campers and boaters flocked there to party at their own risk.

  • Then, a group of friends looking for a place to dock their tiki boat bought it and turned it into a party venue, adding bathrooms, trashcans, food, security and a campground, per the Times.
  • The changes set off a zoning fight with Hillsborough County officials who want to see the island treated as a nature preserve, which would squash its use as a party venue. That debate is ongoing, the Times reported.

Spread the word

🍼 Selene is rooting for Charlotte the asexual stingray.

πŸ—žοΈ Yacob had a blast talking to USF's student-led newspaper!

πŸ‘— Kathryn is reading a profile of Fashion Brand Company (and is a proud owner of the "Museum of Modern Fart" sweatshirt.)

This newsletter was edited by Jeff Weiner and copy edited by Azi Najafi.