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HipHop Soda Shop opens to fanfare
The facility includes video games, a recording studio and two bars.
By JARED LEONE, Times Staff Writer
Published December 19, 2007
Benjamin Chavis, CEO of the new HipHop Soda Shop and former leader of the NAACP, walks the red carpet into the North Tampa restaurant's opening Tuesday evening with celebrities such as rappers Juelz Santana and Jim Jones.
[Brian Cassella | Times]
TAMPA - When rapper Doug E. Fresh's plane touched down in Tampa on Monday night, he had to check out the HipHop Soda Shop.
He already promised CEO Ben Chavis that he would perform, but did he really buy into the idea? Fresh pulled into the parking lot at 9:30 p.m. and saw the staff putting the finishing touches on things.
"It was excitement," Fresh said. "It's putting a stamp of your own. From the old to the new to the future - this is yours."
After years of delays, the first HipHop Soda Shop opened Tuesday with a red-carpet all-day event that culminated with performances by Fresh.
The HipHop Soda Shop is a place to play video games, eat and, if you have some chops, record an album.
The 11,000-square-foot building features a recording studio, outdoor patio and two bars. In the front of the store there are hats, T-shirts, and sports-themed and hip-hop-inspired art by local artists for sale.
The shop features 24 Xbox 360 gaming consoles connected to the Internet and many high-resolution flat panel televisions.
The shop also features healthy eating options and "rap" sandwiches.
Part of the purpose of the HipHop Soda Shop is community outreach, said Chavis who is a former head of the NAACP.
To serve that goal, the shop will have myriad special events like open mike nights, outdoor concerts and online gaming competitions.
Syxx, a local R&B performer, said there are not a lot of outlets for performers in the area. As a performer for the past 10 years, Syxx said the HipHop Soda Shop opening is a positive step in the development of hip-hop in the Tampa Bay area.
The gala opening was the culmination of more than two years of planning. Although they had planned to open the first HipHop Soda Shop in St. Petersburg, expensive zoning requirements stalled those plans.
In the past two months, the company signed a lease for the former Bull Ring Sports Bar at 1241 Fowler Ave, and renovated it into a hangout for 15- to 35-year-olds.
Land O'Lakes High School students Torre Holden and his friend Eric Casarez, both 17, stopped by the shop after hearing about it on the radio.
"We tried to get more people to come, but they had to stay for school," Holden said.