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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. Kahwa Coffee to open second drive-thru store in St. Petersburg


    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]

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


    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]
  3. Tampa International Airport has best spring break season ever


    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)
  4. Will the new meal kits at Publix rival Blue Apron and HelloFresh? We put it to the test


    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.
  5. Retirees on St. Pete Beach have big plans for the medical marijuana industry


    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]
  6. Ten Walmart stores being updated throughout Tampa Bay


    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]
  7. The Florida Aquarium hires new CEO from Chicago


    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]
  8. Here's why Pinellas officials don't want to celebrate National Tourism Week


    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]

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


    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....

    Wildfires in Pasco County threaten closed roads and caused evacuations. [Photo by Howard Altman | Times Staff]
  10. Sparked by Amazon, cargo business growing at Tampa International Airport


    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 to be delivered to Amazon Prime trucks at Tampa International Airport in Tampa.
 [ZACK WITTMAN  |  Times]
  11. St. Petersburg hosting gay, lesbian tourism conference for the first time


    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]

  12. Tampa International Airport board approves next part of massive expansion (w/video)


    TAMPA — The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority voted Thursday morning to move forward with the first steps of phase two of the airport's massive master plan.

    Aviation authority board members voted in favor of a $132.4 million amendment to the authority's 2017 fiscal year budget, which would set funds aside to begin the demolition of the red side parking garage and start development of a retail and office space area near the airport's new rental car facility, which is currently under construction....

    The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority voted Thursday morning to move forward with the first steps of phase two of the airport's massive master plan. This artist rendering shows part of the next phase.
[Tampa International Airport handout]
  13. Bloomin' Brands sells more than 50 company-owned Outback Steakhouses to franchisees


    The Tampa-based parent company of Outback Steakhouse sold and refranchised 53 Outback Steakhouses and one Carrabba's Italian Grill location in eight Western states to two separate hospitality companies.

    Bloomin' Brands announced the sale and refranchising of 45 Outback Steakhouse restaurants in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico to Cerca Trova Restaurant Concepts Inc., and eight Outback restaurants and one Carrabba's in Montana, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming to Evergreen Restaurant Group LLC, according to a press release. The transactions involving a total of 54 locations closed for undisclosed sums on April 25 and April 27, respectively....

    Outback Steakhouse is owned by Tampa-based Bloomin' Brands. Some restaurants are operated by franchise owners. [Photo provided by Bloomin' Brands[
  14. Sprouts Farmers Market to open in Palm Harbor on July 12


    Organic speciality grocery chain, Sprouts Farmers Market, will open a new store in Palm Harbor on July 12.

    The 33,000-square-foot store, which is under construction at 33650 US Highway 19 N., will be the third Sprouts Farmers Market to open in the Tampa Bay area. The Phoenix-based chain opened its first store in Florida in Carrollwood in February. A second store will open at 1523 S. Dale Mabry Highway in South Tampa later this month. More could be coming the to Brandon and Clearwater markets soon. ...

    Sprouts Farmers Market opened its first Tampa Bay location earlier this year in Carrollwood. Its third area location is coming to Palm Harbor in July.
[CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]
  15. Retailers continue to struggle with no saving grace in sight


    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....

    Pictured is the shuttered Macy's space at the University Mall in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, April 13, 2017. Dillard's is in the process of moving into the former Macy's space. [ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times]