Talk of the bay

Published January 26, 2007

'Up all night' star to open up nightie store

Rhonda Shear, comedian and star of a five-year run on USA Network's Up All Night show on cable, is opening her first venture in retailing: a high-end intimate apparel store on Beach Drive in downtown St. Petersburg. The St. Petersburg resident, whose company has been selling her Shapewear intimate apparel line nationally on HSN for four years, calls the new venture Maison Rouge. Accented by a crystal chandelier, the store located in Parkshore Plaza opens Feb. 10. "We'll carry some Shapewear, but most of it will be very high-end products - like a $250 bra - and some brands you cannot find in the Tampa Bay area," she said, promising a "red carpet style" grand opening event with runway models and the 2006 Playboy Playmate of the Year.

Home loan fiasco has bank reeling

Coast Financial Holdings, strapped with risky loans for as many as 482 investment homes, could be a candidate for a sale or merger. The Bradenton parent company of Coast Bank said it has hired Sander O'Neill & Partners, a New York-based investment bank, to sort through financial troubles that have cut its stock value in half. Coast chairman James Toomey said one option is the disappearance of Coast as an independent bank. Troubles started when it lent up to $110-million to customers of Construction Compliance Inc., a St.Petersburg builder. To the chagrin of customers, CCI ceased construction last year on the investment homes, clustered in southwest Florida. CCI said it is trying to find money to finish.

Get Tampa sports fever - it's huge!

How important is the upcoming Atlantic Coast Conference basketball championship for Tampa? Paul Catoe ran out of superlatives Thursday. "It's a huge, huge event for us," said Catoe, president of the Tampa Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau, at a meeting of agency directors. He then called it the first of "three huge mega-events" in Tampa, followed by the NCAA Women's Final Four next year and the Super Bowl in 2009. The tournament, set for March 8-11 at the St. Pete Times Forum, is a perennial sellout that has never been played south of Atlanta. "Not a lot of people consider us a basketball community," said CVB spokeswoman Karen Brand. "This is a chance to make our mark."


All about money

Times personal finance editor Helen Huntley talks about money topics and answers your finance questions at blogs.tampabay.com/money.