ST. PETERSBURG — In the wake of a number of blog posts about the Sunshine City, there’s been a bit of Internet debate on whether anyone really calls this town the ’Burg.
It depends who you ask, said Brian Bailey, founder of blog and Facebook page “I Love the ’Burg,” and anyhow, it doesn’t really matter.
“I think Charlie Crist has been calling it the ’Burg for years,” he said. “I just call it home.”
Whether people actually use the truncated moniker in everyday parlance, Bailey’s “I Love the ’Burg” concept has been alive and well for a solid five years.
It began as a Facebook page in May 2009 to promote local happenings. Bailey runs a marketing and public relations firm called rkc.me, and he says it was an easy way for him to demonstrate his social media prowess for clients.
It was a time when St. Petersburg was in the throes of a recession; a time when there wasn’t so much to write about.
“It was amazing,” he said. “Back (in 2009) we had a few restaurants to talk about. Bella Brava wasn’t on Beach Drive at that point. It was before Cassis, it was before the new Dalí. It was before the Chihuly.”
Downtown St. Petersburg’s cultural renaissance seems to parallel the growth of “I Love the ’Burg,” which eventually became a website with consistently fresh content.
The site covers a range of topics. Events are still a major focus, but so are local arts, innovation, environment and culture. One recent article detailed the lives of characters living in boats in the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina.
Bailey and his employees all contribute to the blog, which has one full-time employee, but the firm’s clients have nothing to do with the site content.
He said the site breaks even with the help of sponsors.
“We have no parent company, the blog is 100 percent privately funded and, ironically, I think that makes us a model for sustainable independent media,” he said.
One of the site’s sponsors is C1 Bank, which caters to businesses and has headquarters downtown. The site caught CEO Trevor Burgess’ eye when he moved to town in 2010.
“It had such great info on local events, businesses that were opening, the emerging renaissance in St. Pete,” Burgess said. “I think it’s a really important part of our outreach to the ... business community.”
This month, Bailey is celebrating the blog’s success with a series of events at local establishments. On Friday it was held at Green Bench Brewing Co., which brewed a beer specifically for the occasion. A second event Thursday is at Mandarin Hide, which will serve “ ’Burg” mules in place of its signature Moscow mule. One event be at Blue Lucy, a gallery on the 600 Block, and another during St. Petersburg Preservation’s Movies in the Park series.
“We try to make St. Pete a better place to live and work by making everyone aware of all the opportunities and sharing it with the world,” Bailey said.