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West Marine chain swallows rival Boat U.S.

By SHARON L. BOND and PIPER JONES CASTILLO
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 23, 2003

West Marine has bought the retail operations of Boat U.S.

West Marine and Boat U.S. were head-to-head competitors, said Jason Franklin, manager of the Boat U.S. store at 11477 U.S. 19 N in Clearwater.

Both national companies have outlets in Pinellas County. They sell boat accessories, from life vests to engine parts and including insurance. Both have membership programs that offer discounts on merchandise.

With the merger, members in the chains' programs will be able to shop in all 320 stores with their discounts. Officials said the combined group will give the chains a heftier lobby for boaters' rights. Boat U.S. will keep its name on its stores. In Pinellas, it has another store in Tarpon Springs.

Ed Conde, manager of West Marine at 5001 34th St. S in St. Petersburg, said no store closings were planned. West Marine also has an outlet at 2000 34th St. N.

Goodyear opens new store

ST. PETERSBURG -- Goodyear Rubber Products at 1912 Central Ave. recently opened its sixth store in Naples.

The company was formed in 1948 by the Jacobs family and makes all sorts of rubber products including boots, gloves, foul weather gear, knotted material for entrance mats and industrial and hydraulic hoses. It has since expanded to Clearwater, Tampa, Bradenton and Fort Myers, said Bob Jacobs, whose father founded the business.

Goodyear Rubber Products is not part of Goodyear Tire and Rubber but recently became a distributor for the national company. The local company recently began making lightweight conveyer belt material, such as might be used in a bakery or citrus plant, Jacobs said.

A fifth Wine Warehouse

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Wine Warehouse has opened at 408 33rd Ave. N, Unit B. This marks the fifth bay area location for Wine Warehouse, based in Gainesville. Other locations include Belleair Bluffs, Palm Harbor, South Tampa and Carrollwood. Janice Keller, who gained her experience while working at the South Tampa Wine Warehouse, is the managing partner of the St. Petersburg store.

The new business, behind the Hungry Bear Restaurant, is housed at the former site of the Sewing Circle, a 40-year-old business that closed in 2001. Last year, Gary Lucke purchased the 4,600-square-foot building from Jeffrey M. & Ann C. Puffer for $300,000. Along with acting as the Wine Warehouse's landlord, Lucke operates his own business, Fast Signs, out of Unit A. Fast Signs was formerly located at 4949 Fourth St. N.

USF trade conference set

A small business trade conference is scheduled for April 29-30 at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Local firms can meet buyers from federal, state and local agencies, as well as large corporations.

Among those planning to attend are NASA, the General Services Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tampa Electric, Honeywell, Raytheon Co. and Northrop Grumman, among others.

The conference is being sponsored by the USF/Small Business Development Center and the Procurement Technical Assistance Center.

For a full schedule and other information, check the conference Web site at

http://tradeconference.coba.usf.edu or telephone (813) 905-5818.

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