East Lake couple fill niche with Big Cat Sports

Published July 14, 2007

EAST LAKE - Frustration led Len and Lisa Moecklin to open a sporting goods store.

"We had been going all over the area looking for the clothing and equipment our two sons needed for the sports they're involved in," Lisa Moecklin said.

The couple's 9-year-old twin sons play baseball for the East Lake Little League and another league that travels around the Tampa Bay area. They also swim for the YMCA and play tackle football.

The Moecklins weren't the only ones frustrated with shopping for their kids' activities. They heard the same complaints from other families.

Enter Big Cat Sports, a business started four years ago in New Tampa by Kevin and Pat Puma and since expanded to Land O'Lakes and Zephyrhills.

The Pumas had been looking in the north Pinellas County area to open a fourth store when they met the Moecklins, who were keen on opening a sporting goods business in East Lake where they live.

The Moecklins were the perfect fit for a fourth Big Cat Sports, Puma said. "They not only had the wherewithal to do it, they had the wherewithal to financially do it," he said. The business, he said, is inventory-intensive.

To open the doors June 18 took an investment of around $150,000, Lisa Moecklin said.

Big Cat Sports in Ridgemoor Commons at 4958 Ridgemoor Blvd. features baseball, football, soccer, softball equipment and apparel, as well as tennis apparel for women and girls, jewelry and sports-related jewelry and T-shirts.

The East Lake store's biggest seller, Lisa Moecklin said, is Under Armour activewear in a fabric engineered to keep the wearer cool when it's hot. The store carries shorts and shirts in the Under Armour line for men, women and children.

The Moecklins, who moved here six years ago from Atlanta, have a licensing agreement with the Pumas to operate the business. "We're going to work with them on an ongoing basis," Puma said, to give support and help them "avoid some of the mistakes we made."

Len Moecklin works in medical sales and Lisa Moecklin is a dental hygienist. They work part-time at the store. Their managing partner, Joe DelNegro, handles the daily operation.

Tarpon buys land for water treatment plant

The city of Tarpon Springs has purchased 10.56 acres north of the Anclote River and bordering L&R Industrial Boulevard for $2.2-million from Thomas E. Overstreet. The property will be used for construction of a reverse osmosis water treatment plant and water storage tank.

The purchase is part of a $45-million bond issue approved by voters last year to finance construction of a city drinking water system.

Ruckle joins office of Wells Fargo Insurance

Frank Ruckle has joined the Clearwater office of Wells Fargo Insurance Services as a senior loss control consultant. His position includes assisting underwriting in marketing and risk analysis, evaluating clients' potential sources of loss and developing controls to minimize losses.

He most recently worked as a safety and health consultant for Zenith Insurance in Sarasota. Before that, he worked for CNA and Fireman's Fund Insurance companies.

Wells Fargo Insurance Services, with local offices at 311 Park Place Blvd., provides insurance brokerage, administrative services and a wide range of financial and consulting services to clients at more than 150 offices in 38 states. Based in Chicago, it is the nation's fifth-largest insurance brokerage and the largest bank-owned insurance brokerage.

Construction begins on Tarpon elementary

Creative Contractors has begun construction on the new Tarpon Springs Elementary School at Disston Avenue and Pine Street. The $23-million project includes six buildings with a total of 110,000 square feet of space and features classrooms, a library, a cafeteria/multipurpose room, teacher planning areas and administrative offices.

The environmentally friendly or "green" school is designed to be water and energy efficient with a focus on using recycled and locally manufactured materials. The architect is Hoffman Architects of Tarpon Springs. Construction is scheduled for completion by August 2008.

Bayou Mortgage opens in Safety Harbor

Laura L. Collins has opened Bayou Mortgage Inc. at 126 Third Ave N in downtown Safety Harbor. Before starting her business, she worked more than 16 years in the banking and finance industry in Clearwater and Safety Harbor.

Bayou Mortgage offers a wide range of mortgage products, such as first and second mortgages, home equity credit lines and commercial loans.

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