When I purchased Neighborhood News on February 26, 1994, with a former partner, I had no idea I’d still be doing the same job 25 years later.
At that time, this was a once-a-month, quarter-folded direct mail newspaper with only “spot” color (not full color) on four pages,that was delivered to 6,500 households in what wasn’t even yet referred to as “New Tampa.” Our only Wesley Chapel distribution back then were the few hundred copies that were being dropped off each month at the Meadow Pointe I clubhouse. I quickly added mailing to the first few hundred homes in the original portion of Meadow Pointe, as well as to the few hundred homes in the community surrounding Saddlebrook Resort.
All I knew then was that, in addition to homes, roads with no traffic signals and thousands of heads of cattle, the areas that would one day be called New Tampa and Wesley Chapel had a lot of vacant land, most of which already had development plans in place. I started calling the phone numbers on every sign along both Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. in New Tampa (at that time, the portion in Pasco County was only known as County Road 581) and Cross Creek Blvd.
And even though the Neighborhood News I purchased already had a reasonable number of advertisers, I knew that the key to getting people to actually read the publication was to tell them about the plans for the new developments coming to their community.
As you can see from the first few of the 50 covers (see gallery below), I and my “staff” of one part-time writer/editor made sure that we told the residents in my two distribution areas everything we could about the plans for the homes, apartments, businesses, roads, libraries, churches and recreational opportunities that were coming “in the future.”
Well, 25 years later, I and my still-small staff of one outstanding full-time managing editor, a few great freelance writers and a few in-house support staffers continue to give you more news and information about everything that is still coming to our now-separate distribution areas.
The 50 Neighborhood News front pages include an average of two covers per year for every year we’ve been in business, although there are a few years along the way that didn’t make it to these pages — not because nothing “important” happened those years, but because most of these front pages are about “firsts,” meaning the first story we published (and believe me, especially in the beginning, no other local news media covered most of the stories we did) about a particular subject affecting our readers.
In order to give you that true historical perspective in a small amount of available space, there aren’t nearly as many covers from the era of 2015 until the present, even though managing editor John C. Cotey has probably broken as many big news stories in those 3+ years as I did between 1994-2000, but most of you have been here for most of John’s biggest stories, whereas the vast majority of our readers weren’t living here from the start.
But, What About The Party?
So, even though my anniversary of buying the paper was actually in February of ‘94, my first issue as the publisher and editor was April of that year. In addition, as we told you on last issue’s cover, I got married in late March, so I didn’t really want to host the party until after that event.
I was thrilled that Eddie Bujarski and his wife Lourdes, the owners of the Bayscape Bistro in the Heritage Isles Golf Club on Cross Creek Blvd. in New Tampa, agreed to not only host the party on April 12, but also to put out a beautiful spread of both hot and cold munchies for what turned out to be more than 100 guests. I, of course, provided a karaoke DJ for the event, just as I had done at our first “Meet the Publisher” karaoke party way back in May of ‘94.
But, most of the folks who attended the 25th anniversary event weren’t there to sing (even though Jannah and I and some of our friends may have been) — almost every reader who attended said they just wanted to be there to thank me for being an important part of their lives here in New Tampa and Wesley Chapel. We had folks from Epperson to the north and Tampa Palms to the south, and from Lexington Oaks to the west to K-Bar Ranch to the east attend and many came in groups of people who all had at least one thing in common — they all love the Neighborhood News!
I also was thrilled that several of our wonderful advertisers also found time to check out the celebration — and find out more about our new Video & Online Subscriptions. Among the attendees were Realtors Karen Tillman-Gosselin and her husband Renynold Gosselin, James and Alexis Staten of Olympus Pools, Pam Edmonson of Creative Permanent Makeup by Pam, Derek Usman of Usman Law Firm and Ramses Garcia of Las Palmas Latin Grill all showed up to party with me, Jannah, John, office and sales assistant Janet Levins, senior video producer Gavin Olsen and his assistant Charmaine George.
As you can see, there are a lot of front pages we’ve had to leave out to keep the number of our historic covers at only 50, especially from 2017-present.
Even so, pictured here are (left-right and top-bottom)our historic win as Small Business of the Year from what was then known as the Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce; Wesley Chapel resident Mike Moore’s first election to the Pasco County Board of Commissioners; the Grand Opening of the Tampa Premium Outlets; our first story about the indoor sports complex which is finally beginning construction in Wiregrass; our first cover story about the “Connected City”; our story about the definitive history of Wesley Chapel being published by a local author; our WCNT-tv Preview Party; the opening of what was then known as Florida Hospital Center Ice; the first Taste of New Tampa & Wesley Chapel hosted at the skating complex; our first explanation of the Diverging Diamond Intersection; a visit with the first families that moved into Epperson, prior to the opening of the Crystal Lagoons® amenity that is now open to the public (pg. 5); John’s great story about all of the new pizza places (almost all of which are now open) coming to Wesley Chapel; our nominee for our best New Tampa cover headline ever (“Bruce B. Done”) and a certain publisher’s nuptials from last issue. Impressive, right? — GN