By: Kelly Stuart Williams, MA

The Carrollwood Area Business Association (CABA) will be celebrating the installation of its 35th Board of Directors this month, and CABA celebrated its 34th birthday in May 2020.  Over the past year, CABA has had many things to celebrate:  not the least of which has been its ability to “pivot” and help its 300+ businesses (members) during “Shelter in Place” and business closures from March 2020 – June 2020.

In March, CABA began reaching out to its members and its restaurants that needed to move from “in-person meetings” and “dine-in” to online, virtual, and take-out support.  CABA continues to host weekly networking meetings in its CABA Zoom Room and is hosting Lunch-n-Learns and Power Lunches that feature a different restaurant each week.

Pivoting to help its members experiencing closures is nothing new for CABA, as local businesses were facing adversity in 1985 when a small group of about 16 committed citizens and business owners in the Carrollwood area came together to address a “growing” problem—specifically, Tampa was “growing” faster than its roads could accommodate. Accordingly, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) had embarked on a number of roadway expansion projects to include the widening of North Dale Mabry Highway from two (2) to four (4) lanes. A few years earlier, business owners had been hurt by the widening of Waters Avenue; in some cases, businesses closed due to the lack of ingress and egress caused by the road construction on Waters.

Convened by John Baumann, CPA, the group of Carrollwood business owners organized to communicate with a unified voice to FDOT, and the widening of North Dale Mabry Highway became one of the first major road construction projects in Florida to be completed at night: when businesses were closed.

While this successful business advocacy initiative could have been the end of the CABA story, it was only the beginning. Months after the widening of Tampa’s Northwest corridor, Dale Mabry’s businesses were growing not only because of better roads but also due to the number of business to business (B2B) referrals that were being passed among the members of CABA.  Accordingly, Baumann and the other founding members of the organization decided to form the Carrollwood Area Business Association: a volunteer-run, event-driven association of local businesses.

President-elect Jennifer Jenkins is the CABA Board Liaison for the Community Outreach Committee. She explained that helping Carrollwood businesses is helping the community—that her Committee focused on communicating #ShopSmall and #EatLocal throughout the year:  long before the CARES Act or Covid-19.  “Strengthening small business is strengthening our community…we know that small businesses not only contribute to the local economy, but they sponsor everything from our Little League teams to our schools to our charities,” said Jenkins.

In addition to CABA businesses “giving back” to local charities, CABA itself integrates charitable giving in most of its activities.  Since 2017, CABA has been sponsoring the Carrollwood “Trunk or Treat” and “Holiday Tree Lighting” events, where Carrollwood businesses are invited to “treat” residents, families, and children to an evening of fun in Northdale Park before Halloween and Christmas. “We have been working with the Northdale Civic Association on Trunk or Treat and the Tree Lighting, and they get bigger every year,” said Jenkins. “The events are focused on getting our CABA members out into the community to promote their businesses, as we celebrate with our neighbors.  Proceeds from our table sponsors are designated to a local non-profit or school, and it’s a great celebration of community.”

Aligned with #ShopSmall and #EatLocal is the CABA Presents Taste of Carrollwood (TOC) event that has been held at Raymond James Stadium for the past two years.  Special Events Board Liaison Danelle Castillo explained that promoting CABA members and the Carrollwood community in Tampa’s largest venue allows CABA to feature nearly 100 vendors to include Carrollwood businesses and restaurants.  “CABA’s annual tasting event has grown from meeting in the Gaither High School Cafeteria to hosting in the same venue where the Super Bowl will be played in 2021.” Castillo added, “Regardless of how big the event or the venue, our focus remains on promoting our CABA member businesses and restaurants.”  A portion of the proceeds of TOC 2020 has been designated to the American Cancer Society. 

As part of promoting its members through TOC, CABA hosts a “Best of” Taste of Carrollwood contest.  Attendees complete their ballots while tasting samples from nearly 30 restaurants and enjoying entertainment and drawings from nearly 100 vendors.  While entering to win flat screen TV’s, a diamond ring, test drives of luxury vehicles, and enjoying in-crowd entertainment from Star Wars characters and four (4) Beasley Media radio stations, attendees cast their ballots for the following winners of the 2020 “Best of” Taste of Carrollwood competition:  Best Mains- Noble Crust; Best Deserts- The Cake Girl; Best Booth (a tie): Tampa Bay Realty and Investment Group and Caspers Company McDonalds;  Best Giveaway- AdventHealth

If you live in the “Greater Carrollwood” area, please visit our online directory at usecaba.com where over 350 businesses are represented:  from lawn care to legal advice.  When you support a CABA member, you are supporting our community. #CABAConnects