Although I always try to support our local business community, I’ve never really been a big fan of the holiday shopping season. And, I generally shake my head when I see and hear of so many people who are willing to wait on line outside a store for hours on Thanksgiving Day or Black Friday in order to save a few dollars on a big-ticket item.

Gary Nager Editorial

But, if you’re the type of person who doesn’t think your time is worth more than that, I’ve always said “more power to you.”

What I will say is that this year, I’m genuinely hoping that all of our local mom-and-pop businesses — including our advertisers, of course — will be able to rebound from last year’s Covid-induced coma.

And, since this is our pre-Christmas issue for New Tampa, I promise to do my part to help as many small businesses as possible this holiday season. I also would like to help as many charitable organizations as possible, because I know that Covid also was brutal to nonprofits, especially those whose mission is to help people in need.

So, feel free to email me at or post on our “Neighborhood News” page on Facebook with information about your locally owned small business or a nonprofit organization that you support anytime between now and December 23 and I’ll share that information with our online audience. Considering that we have more than 12,000 followers of our Neighborhood News page on Facebook, I hope it’ll help.

About Supply Chain Issues & Employee Shortages 

  I also will admit that I don’t really understand why Covid also has caused the worldwide supply chain problem, but I do know that it’s real and that the issue doesn’t bode well for the holiday shopping season.

What I do have a better first-hand understanding about are the ongoing employee shortages that also are making things more difficult for local businesses. In addition to having difficulty finding one part-time office and sales assistant, despite months of looking, I also have had a number of restaurant owners tell me that they couldn’t afford for me to do a Dining Feature story about their place because they’re short-staffed and couldn’t handle the expected huge influx all at once of new patrons when the story would break. This is literally a problem I had never heard of before in my nearly 28 years in this business.

And, as someone who dines out as often as possible for both business and pleasure, this obvious shortage of employees — despite more employers paying (or offering to pay) their people more money — has greatly affected me personally. 

It seems that every local restaurant is hiring and many across the country are facing, according to a recent New York Times article, “a potentially catastrophic inability to hire,” because of Covid fears, too-generous government benefits (that make it too easy for people to not work) and other factors.

Even though Florida’s minimum wage has been raised to $10 per hour (and will rise by $1 per hour per year, to $15 per hour, by 2026), it’s apparently not enough, especially since the increase for tipped workers is currently only from a minimum of $6.98 per hour plus tips now and will increase to $11.98 per hour plus tips in 2026. 

The bottom line appears to be that despite my best hopes, wishes and prayers, despite the minimum wage increases and still-declining Covid hospitalizations, the 2021 holiday shopping season still may not be everything yours truly and so many other small business owners are hoping it will be.

And then, there’s the new Omicron variant that I hope won’t put yet another monkey wrench into the works for restaurant and retail business owners. So, if you‘re not already vaccinated, please do so ASAP.

A Turkey Trot By Any Other Name

If you were confused on Thanksgiving morning by the fact that there were two 5K “Turkey Trot” events in Wesley Chapel, you weren’t alone. Rich Wills, the former owner of the FitNiche (now Fit2Run) store in the Shops at Wiregrass, had started the annual “Wiregrass Wobble Turkey Trot 5K” eight years ago, but was told that since he no longer owned the store, the mall was still going to host a “Wiregrass Turkey Trot 5K,” with the New Tampa Rotary (again) as a partner, without him. 

Undeterred, Wills moved the “official” Wiregrass Wobble 5K and 1(tur)K runs to the Tampa Premium Outlets and the events at both malls attracted more than 1,000 runners and walkers and raised money for worthy causes. We were happy to help Wills promote his 8th annual run, the first ever held at the Outlets, and people raved about the new course, the camaraderie and the weather. Congrats, Rich!  

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