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Roadside business creates sibling rivalry

Just like with the big boys, a dispute over profits pushes brothers into competition.

By THOMAS LAKE
Published July 19, 2007


NEW PORT RICHEY - This is how Grant Stafford set out to defeat his brother. He whipped up some Country Time in a plastic pitcher. He walked to the street and laid a slab of plywood across a stack of coolers. And he stood there, watching the cars pass, waiting for the cash to flow.

Grant is 14. His first customers arrived about 4 p.m. Tuesday. One of them, Nick Branske, paid 30 cents for a short Styrofoam cupful.

"It was good lemonade, dawg," he said when he finished.

Indeed. But along with the fructose and maltodextrin, Grant's lemonade had a dash of spite.

It was aimed at his 12-year-old brother, Blake, who stood perhaps 50 yards north under the same withering sun, selling blue Gatorade for a dollar a cup.

Here is the brief tale of two young businessmen who went from partners to rivals in an ageless summer industry.

According to Grant, it started Friday, when he and his friend Dimitri set up a lemonade stand in the Gulf Harbors subdivision. They spent $7 on materials and took in $15, a profit margin of 114 percent.

But they'd acquired several partners, including Blake, and everyone wanted a piece.

"There was like eight of us out here," Grant recalled. "So we all only got like a dollar."

Early on Tuesday afternoon, Blake and his friends Bryce Yalacki and Dominick Bibire set up their Gatorade stand.

Grant said he approached them and offered help but was rebuffed because they didn't want to share the profits.

Blake denies banishing his brother from the enterprise. In any case, Grant set out to seize control of Shell Stream Boulevard's roadside-beverage trade.

After he set up his stand, he called Blake on his cell phone.

"I'm getting all the people from over there," Grant remembered saying, "and there'll be no one else for you to get money from."

"Fine," Blake told him. "Gatorade's better than lemonade."

"Bring it on," Grant said. He had his honors English summer reading assignment with him, a paperback called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.

At the Gatorade stand to the north, Blake and Bryce and Dominick were trying to raise cash for a trip to the skating rink. But the drivers were ignoring them.

As a Jeep Grand Cherokee zoomed past, Blake grabbed their handmade sign, which said Gaterade, and ran alongside the SUV in his ankle-high black socks. It didn't stop. An old man in another SUV saw Blake by the road. He honked and glared and mouthed angry words.

Somewhere around this time, for reasons unknown, Grant disappeared. At last check he had taken in $1.30, $1 of which came from a thirsty St. Petersburg Times reporter.

Blake and his friends earned at least $7, including $1 from the reporter, but their revenue failed to meet projections.

Finally, Bryce called the cavalry.

"Hey," he said on his cell phone, "will you come buy some Gatorade? We're desperate.

"We've been out here all day, Mom."

She declined.

With good reason.

"She bought the Gatorade in the first place," Bryce said.

Thomas Lake can be reached at tlake@sptimes.com or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245.