The clutch of runners starts gathering every Wednesday night at the Irish 31 bar in Hyde Park Village, sometimes 80 runners or more. Then, at 6:30 sharp(ish), poof, they're off for a quick 5K run/race, sometimes with a few dogs on leashes in tow. When they return, winded and thirsty, the bar is happy to hand out some brews. Perhaps a Summer Shandy or Irish stout beer isn't the first thing you want after running, but bar-hosted running clubs are sprouting up across the region, and they're becoming a hot tool for bars and fitness stores to boost their weeknight traffic. Four Green Fields on Platt Street was a pioneer here, starting a run club several years ago, and it now hosts 100 to 200 runners each Tuesday night. For the more organized/dating/social runner, there's the “Running for Brews” club that hosts runs at a litany of bars in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Dunedin and Brandon, plus Atlantic Beach, Chattanooga and Boulder.
If beer's not your thing, the FITniche in South Tampa is your place. The fitness store recently opened and immediately started a run/wine/chocolate night on Thursdays with a 5K that ends at City Street Sweets and the Wine Exchange. Lest the runners disturb the other guests with their post-run aura, they sit outside on the patio and get discounts on wine by the glass. Other retail, restaurant and trend news around town: Lots of reader mail arrived after my column on J.C. Penney's drive to modernize and set stable prices instead of sales and coupons. And foomp! A day later, J.C. Penney ousted its CEO and re-hired the former CEO, thoroughly snuffing the whole pricing experiment. Some readers wrote me to say J.C. Penney's new fashion-forward style also left them behind. Some said they just missed the coupons. Paul Gross wrote to say, “If you want to be known for an every day low price strategy, you had better be lower than your competitor's price, i.e. Target & WalMart … I used to purchase Nunn Bush dress shoes for $49.99 on sale there and now they are Every Day Low Priced at $64.” Tis' the season for grasshopper babies to start popping up around your yard. For now, they may be cute little black buggies that clump together in clubs on your plants. But give them a month, and they'll munch on everything and grow into prehistoric-looking monsters the size of your thumb. For that, I can't recommend enough one solution: Nolo Bait. Yes, a shot of wasp spray will also kill them, but Nolo is an organic brand you spread around the yard that's infused with a spore that the “Lubbers” eat and (sorry for the yuckiness) makes them sick, and it cuts down on reproduction the following year. Nolo is a bit hard to find, but Shell's Feed & Garden Supply in Tampa has it, and you can buy it online from the manufacturer at GoodBug.com. Perhaps a week will pass when I don't mention the live TV streaming service Aereo, but this is not one. Why? Because the tiny start-up has thrown the whole TV industry into a frenzy by collecting free broadcast signals and re-sending them over the Internet to subscribers who want to cut the cable TV cord. This freaks out even media giants. News Corp.-owned FOX Broadcasting is threatening to end their use of … wait for it … broadcasting, and shift entirely to cable/satellite/streaming. Truly, this is part of their legal posturing against Aereo in the courts, and such a move would scramble everything from the Super Bowl to your local news show. So expect the next few years to thoroughly reshape TV in the same way Napster and iTunes did for music and Netflix did for movies. A fun side note: One of Aereo's backers is Barry Diller, who once ran FOX, green-lighted the Simpsons and made a career out of backing “disruptive” companies. Another TV note. DirecTV this autumn is launching DogTV, a special channel devoted to dogs … for dogs to watch. Price: $5.99 per month. This is not a joke. Visit dogtv.com. Some news for very far South Tampa residents: The Publix grocery store on Gandy Boulevard is slated for remodel. The company isn't saying yet whether this is a relatively minor refreshing of the paint and fixtures or a take-down and re-build situation like other stores. Perhaps a refreshed store will tempt a few shoppers away from the Publix location on Neptune that's the fashionable grocery to see and be seen, and thus packs the parking lot to the edge most nights. Go to Publix.com. We recently stopped by one of the new Grimaldi's Pizza spots in Tampa, and I can tell you that Grimaldi's is a place for people who don't see a reason for much else besides pizza. Don't look for kids' meals. Don't look for chicken fingers. Don't look for pasta or vegan anything. They do pizza, calzones (a.k.a. pizza folded in half) and Mediterranean salads. It's a one-page menu. That said, it's a beautiful restaurant with funky steel tile ceilings, chandeliers made of wine bottles, classic red-and-white checkered table cloths and a luscious aroma of roasting garlic and pizza warming in a brick oven. Visit GrimaldisPizzeria.com.