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© St. Petersburg Times, published May 11, 2002
With a CEO who makes every store close on Sunday, Chik-Fil-A has attracted employees with what it calls a family atmosphere.
The family atmosphere at Tampa's newest Chik-Fil-A on South Dale Mabry has gone beyond intangibles. Linda Fowler works there with three of her kids -- Travis, Betsy and Stacy. You also have Bobbie Pittman, her sister Jean Riggins and Jean's son Robert.
Manager Jeremiah Simpson works beside his girlfriend Julia Kimbro, and his father, Mike, a Tampa police officer, was visiting Jeremiah on Friday afternoon (more on Mike later).
Simpson gave the rundown on the Chik-Fil-A family tree during one of the few moments he had a chance to talk. The stand-alone restaurant had a grand opening Friday and as one friend said, it appeared they were giving food away.
Of course, that wasn't the case. It was Wednesday night when the Chik-Fil-A gave food away ... to employees' family members, naturally.
The good news is Ladies Home Journal rates Tampa as the best city in Florida for women. The magazine recently released its Best Cities For Women list, and while Tampa slipped two notches from last year's rankings, it was the best among Florida's large cities, ranking 32nd among the nation's 57 cities with a population over 300,000. Miami was 53rd. In cities under 300,000, Tallahassee was 48th, Orlando was 114th and St. Petersburg was 129th.
The rankings are produced using statistics related to several major topics: crime, health, education, economy, jobs, child care and lifestyle. Each topic consists of categories such as dating potential.
That's where the bad news comes in, ladies. Among all 200 cities, Tampa's dating potential -- which is measured by the ratio of single men to single women -- actually dropped from 106 to 110.
Even more disappointing is the 191 ranking Tampa received for its beauty index, which took into account the number of dental check-ups women had, the number of sunburns they had within a year and their perception of the condition of their hair and skin.
Hair and skin perception? Come on, ladies. Believe in yourself.
Some billboards scattered around town say, "Never lose a sock again" and offer a 1-888 number. You know I had to call and find out, because sock-losing is an art in my house.
Turns out the billboards were put up by RainMakers, a Tampa-based sales and marketing company that has found its niche in marketing consumer products.
The latest product is Putasockinit, a sock-sorting system that allows families to separate socks into personalized mesh bags, clip them together and hang them on a rack when they come out of a dryer.
Oh yeah, about Mike Simpson, the father of the Chik-Fil-A manager. Turns out he is the post adviser for the TPD Explorers program, and he wanted to make sure I knew about Law Week at WestShore Plaza.
Area law enforcement and fire departments have exhibits at the mall through Sunday, including canine exhibitions and the occasional appearance by McGruff the Crime Dog.
Last year, when I wrote of Tampa's low dating potential and the many women friends who concurred with the ranking, I ended up connecting with Pete Hines, a Tampa financial adviser. His response was, "Tell your single women friends they're not looking hard enough."
True to his word, Pete did what he could to help the ranking. He befriended Tara, and they've been together for nearly a year.
Then again, by taking himself out of the market, I guess he actually hurt the ranking. I think.
That's all I'm saying.
-- Ernest Hooper can be reached at (813) 226-3406 or Hooper@sptimes.com.