By GEOFF FOX
The Tampa Tribune
Published: June 30, 2008
ZEPHYRHILLS – The front door had been unlocked only five days before and the business had yet to advertise, but word obviously was out that Dixie Outfitters was open for business.
Several customers milled around the 2,000-square-foot shop last week, browsing through an array of merchandise celebrating Southern heritage.
After examining displays of license plates bearing Confederate symbols and camouflage baseball caps, customer George Barrett of Zephyrhills turned his attention to a blanket commemorating Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
"I’ll be back for that one," Barrett said, adding that the blanket was better suited for hanging on a wall than draping over a couch. "I’ll probably get some of those camping chairs, too. They’ll be good for bonfires."
The chairs, license plates, caps and blanket are just a few of the items stocked in the store at 4903 Allen Road, in the Hillvest Center strip mall, just south of State Road 54.
Besides Dixie Outfitters attire, there is all manner of American Outfitters, Christian Outfitters and Dixie Girls apparel.
There also are wallets, playing cards, belt buckles, shot glasses, flasks, pocketknives, bowie knives, pewter statues of historic Southern figures, clocks, shoes, beach towels, head scarves, large brown jugs and two-piece, camouflage-style swim wear for women.
Hanging on one display rack is a plastic sign that says:
"Parking For Rednecks Only
All Others Go Back North"
Owners Ron and Barbara Barber said they were inspired to open the store about a month ago, after friends opened a Dixie Outfitters franchise in Beaufort, S.C. The Barbers also run Bar-Con Concrete in Plant City.
Barbara Barber said they chose the Hillvest location because they liked the area, the size of retail space and the affordable rent. The store is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
"Zephyrhills doesn’t have much, and this is kind of a specialty shop," she said.
Because Confederate insignia is on the storefront, it is also the kind of shop that could be controversial in some areas, but she doesn’t think there will be any problems in Zephyrhills.
"We’re not trying to offend anybody, but nobody has to walk through the front door," she said. "We’re just here to have a good time. We don’t want to hurt anybody. My husband is from Ohio, and he doesn’t have a problem" with the merchandise.
Overhearing Barber’s comments, customer Eddie Carter produced a bumper sticker that he said symbolizes the outlook of many proud Southerners.
"All Deserve Honor"
Carter of Zephyrhills said he was glad the store had opened in the area, because he previously had to drive to flea markets or specialty shops in Land O’ Lakes, Plant City or Tampa to find merchandise celebrating Southern heritage.
As country music played softly on the store’s radio, a few more customers walked in.
"We’ve been doing good for not advertising and just turning the sign on," Barbara Barber said.
"We’ve got them coming in from Tampa, Bradenton and Crystal Springs."
For information about Dixie Outfitters, call (813) 779-9100 or go online to www.dixieoutfitters.com.
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