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Tuesday, Apr 24, 2018
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Mullins: Iconic lunch break tableau advertises sub shop

TAMPA I almost drove off the road along Kennedy Boulevard the other day when I saw the sculpture — an exact, life-size physical replica of the iconic photo of 1932 Rockefeller Center iron workers eating lunch on a steel beam high above New York City. Each figure was perfectly cast, frozen in time chatting and sorting through their lunchboxes. But this sculpture was bolted to a utility truck emblazoned with Larry’s Giant Subs and parked at 3841 W. Kennedy Blvd. Here’s the story. Larry’s founder and New York native Mitch Raikes and his business partner and brother, Larry, commissioned the work years ago from sculptor Sergio Furnari to commemorate the American blue-collar worker and to remember Mitch’s time working in a Jacksonville steel plant. “We use it for advertising and bring it to all our stores,” Mitch Raikes said. “People like to climb up there and have their picture taken like they’re working with the guys.”
For fans of the iconic photo, here’s a link to a great Smithsonian magazine article on its history and the documentary film that identified some of the guys: bit.ly/OH459Q The Larry’s rolling truck version reminded me of other great promotions: The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile that parked every weekend down the street from where I once lived in Chicago; the classic Krispy Kreme city bus that also made a stop on Kennedy recently; and I’ll lump in the rolling hot dog VW beetle from Mel’s Hot Dogs on Busch Boulevard. Larry’s has deliberately grown slowly, Raikes says, and the site in Tampa is owned by Larry’s son Max. There are 90-plus locations, with a cluster around Jacksonville and others in South Georgia, but a couple of hundred more could be added amid a franchising drive. For a town fixated on Cuban sandwiches, these are good times for people who like a good New York-style sub. Jersey Mike’s is adding locations here (the next one in Pinellas County at 7066 U.S. 19 N.), as is Jimmy John’s and Which Wich. The Wicked Wiches food truck is worth adding to your list. There’s also Phili Phlava, and West Shore Pizza makes a good one, too. As for Larry’s subs, there are other New York links. The bread comes from Costanzo’s bakery in Buffalo, and the meats come from providers such as Fontanini and National Deli. Soups come from the “Soup Man” spinoff from television’s “Seinfeld.” Cheesecake comes from the Carnegie Deli in Manhattan. As of this writing, the Larry’s iron workers are rolling back to Jacksonville, which means I missed my chance to sit next to the guys for a photo, but Mitch Raikes says to keep an eye out because the truck will be back in Tampa soon. Other retail, restaurant and trend news across town: For all the grief the media take about erroneous news, we reporters spend much of our time debunking. In the past 18 months I’ve tracked down at least four locations where people were absolutely, positively, 100 percent sure someone told them would be a Trader Joe’s grocery store. First it was downtown St. Petersburg, then someone was *sure* about Carrollwood, then Brandon, then Hyde Park Village. Trader Joe’s is the Sasquatch of grocers. So, for those keeping score at home, at least three of my sources are absolutely sure they were told that someone has a deal for a T.J.’s near Swann Avenue and Dale Mabry Highway taking the space occupied by a Shapes fitness center. Could it be true? Of course. Why not? But nobody has a document as proof. Were I a cynical person, I’d consider this brilliant tactics by Trader Joe’s real estate officials to bid down the offering price of potential locations before picking one, for sure, absolutely. The dormant Faith Cafe church and homeless center on Kennedy Boulevard will soon have a new life as an upscale burger restaurant. BurgerFi picked the site at 3702 W. Kennedy Blvd. for its first location in Tampa. There’s no official opening date, but the chain foresees several more across the region. BurgerFi is one of many “better burger” restaurants that offer an elevated, fast-casual experience. In this case, the company’s signature brand is a brand on top of buns that says BurgerFi. The Lazydays RV supercenter/campground/village has a new CEO, Tim Sheehan, 49, who comes from Best Buy, where he worked 25 years (during the time the company grew from $50 million in annual sales to $50 billion.) He comes into a big job. Lazydays is the largest single-site RV dealer in the world, and Lazydays is in a knife fight with rival conglomerate Camping World RV/Dusty’s RV/Good Sam RV that’s expanding in the market. At Best Buy, Sheehan held jobs in sales, operations, services, real estate, supply chain and retail systems, and was lastly its executive vice president. Randy Lay, who was interim CEO at Lazydays, will continue his role as chief financial officer. A tip o’ the hat to Mashable for publicizing a study by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute that found the voice-to-text apps on iPhones and Droid phones don’t increase driving safety, as one might assume, when compared with texting while driving. True, drivers in a controlled test using voice-activating systems such as Siri spent more time looking at the road ahead, but they faltered just as much in a pre-set road course. Why? It’s not fully understood, but the theory is that a driver’s overall attention level is also important, whether or not they’re trying to get Siri to understand. The first financial results are coming in at Sweetbay parent Delhaize after the European company shut down a slew of “underperforming” stores, and ta-DA!, they look better from an accountant’s point of view. Operating margins in the United States came in at 4.2 percent, up from 3.7 percent the same quarter last year as a result of “positive sales leverage supported by the favorable calendar impact, non-performing store closures,” and so on. Oh, how video gamers suffer when they’re at the finale of “God of War” or “Lego Lord of the Rings” and they want a pizza — now. Xbox to the rescue! Pizza Hut recently cut a deal with Xbox creator Microsoft to build an app that lets players pause their game and order a pizza directly through their game console — because reaching for the phone is apparently too distracting.

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