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Tampa Pep Boys spurns grease-monkey image

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Published:   |   Updated: April 21, 2013 at 12:49 PM

When was the last time you crawled under your car to change the oil? Or disassembled the carburetor to diagnose that annoying knock when you turn the ignition? Perhaps when you were 10 with your dad. Perhaps never.

Now, more likely, your car's internal computer diagnoses itself and finds the nearest dealership via GPS, schedules a repair appointment and sends a text message to your phone. Even tires have Bluetooth-enabled air pressure sensors.

Such is the existential problem facing American auto parts stores.

Since the Henry Ford era, they have offered a warehouse of spare parts for DIY mechanics who could walk in with a greasy, broken doohickey and walk out with a replacement part. Now, fewer cars can be fixed outside a computer-diagnostic dealership, and fewer people have the inclination to try.

The next-best-hope for auto parts store has come to life in a reincarnated prototype in Tampa on Hillsborough Avenue. There's still a huge parts warehouse and mechanic's bays, but Pep Boys has added a Speed Shop for the fast 'n' furious crowd who want to trick out their ride with nitrous oxide.

Plus, company managers redesigned the overall store atmosphere, with a waiting room more in line with a Starbucks than a muffler repair shop. And there are racks of “driving lifestyle” products such as baby seats, iPad charging cords and rear-facing digital video cameras so parents on the go can see their baby's face.

Notably, Pep Boys has room to expand into the market of non-gearheads. As CEO Michael Odell recently told investors, “One-third of our customers are true DIYers, but they count for less than 20 percent of our sales.”

The ball is in your court, NAPA, CarQuest, O'Reilly and Advance Auto.

Other retail, restaurant and trend news around town:


After a major renovation, Nordstrom's reopened its second-floor restaurant at International Plaza and renamed it Bazille. Tribune food writer Jeff Houck and I made a visit on opening day last week.

The menu retains popular items such as the cilantro lime shrimp salad and the sautéed chicken and angel hair pasta. But the restaurant's redesign features a more expansive lunch and dinner menu, a new sparkly cocktail bar with seating and more service at the tables.

Chef Ian Mackinnon described a drive to elevate the service to match Nordstrom's service reputation, with a fanatic focus on details. There's a new appetizer of crispy risotto croquettes that will curl your toes for $8.75 (even the basil garnish is ultra-flash-fried to crispiness) a chicken gnocci carbonara for $12.25 and a 12-ounce steak au poivre for $21.95. This is now the template for renovating Nordstrom bistros nationwide.


Speaking of affluence, perhaps you're not a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio and won't pay to watch him star in the upcoming remake of “The Great Gatsby.”

But you, too, can dress like a 1920s-era foppish dandy for a mere $1,000 an outfit. Brooks Brothers partnered with the film producers on a line of menswear that's fit for a pre-Prohibition party at The Breakers. (The Hamptons are so ho-hum now, don't you think?)

Consider the Regatta Blazer with resplendent white and burgundy vertical stripes for $798, the white and brown Spectator wingtips for $598, or the straw “Boater Hat” with spiffy red ribbon for — I kid you not — $198.

“But,” you ask, “Is there a pink linen suit?” Why, yes, because, duh, it's what Daisy Buchanan would want you to wear. BrooksBrothers.com.


With the zeitgeist moving into “Gatsby”-style 1920s wingtips, I'm wondering whether we'll keep going back in time, skip past the Panic of 1893 and go right to Lincoln-era top hats and then Jeffersonian pantaloons.

Let me know if you see them on the street in Brooklyn, because they are sure to show up in Tampa the next year.


On the other end of the Richter Scale of dandiness there's Tampa's own barbecue sports bar Lee Roy Selmon's, which just took a huge leap forward in turning occasional customers into regulars.

A new Victory Club membership program lets customers earn points for each visit and dollar spent, with perks such as free appetizers, a free dessert on birthdays and chances to win sports tickets.

It appears to be wildly successful. During launch week, at least one in three tables enrolled on the spot, and the company hired a full-time data entry staff member to register them all. LeeRoySelmons.com, @LeeRoySelmons63.


OK, fine, one more bit of retro news. The hip Squaresville vintage clothing and retro home décor store has moved from South Howard Avenue to 3224 W. Bay to Bay Boulevard.

Why? The landlord at the previous site sold the property.

So check the store's hip lineup at the new spot at MacDill Avenue. Motto: “If it's out of style, it's in stock.” SquaresvilleTampa.com, @squaresvilletpa.


No doubt Chick-fil-A and McDonald's have their own top-secret skunk works full of chef researchers to attack and counterattack each other's menu lineups.

Lately, McDonald's has upped the game with more chicken sandwiches, wraps and salads.

Now Chick-fil-A is expanding its relatively narrow menu with, yes, new salads: Cobb, Asian and Grilled Market, each with less than 430 calories, they profess.


The amazing Philips Collection exhibit is leaving the Tampa Museum of Art on April 28, so art lovers are looking for the next round of works.

That will be “Faded Elegance: Photographs of Havana by Michael Eastman,” who specializes in using a 4-foot by 5-foot camera to capture stunning detail and color. The exhibit features 29 huge photos taken in Cuba from 1999 to 2010 that capture the “nostalgia and wealth of a bygone era,” including shots of neglected embassies, music schools and building exteriors.

The exhibit runs May 11 to Sept. 15. A second exhibit is the “Miradas” show that features 100 modern and contemporary Mexican works from a range of well-known artists including Diego Rivera, Rufino Tamayo, Gabriel Orozco and others. Tampamuseum.org, @TampaMuseumArt.


rmullins@tampatrib.com

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Twitter: @DailyDeadline

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