Some people make the journey to the healing waters of Fatima. Others trek to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. I, on the other hand, embarked on a truly American pilgrimage: to the birthplace of Hooters.
The first thing I saw coming into Tampa from the airport was a giant billboard with nothing on it but a simple line of text. It said, “Hooters Nation: United we eat.” Hooters Nation? Everyone knows we live in Steeler Nation! This ad is an affront to all Pittsburgh fans! I knew then that I would need to make a trip to Clearwater, Florida, the birthplace of Hooters. It was the least I could do for journalism, and besides, it was only a half hour ride from Tampa.
My waitress was Jessica. She was wearing the usual Hooters outfit, a tight T-shirt and the familiar orange short shorts. She and the other waitresses had “delightfully tacky, yet unrefined” printed on the back of their T-shirts. That’s the same slogan used for Steeler Nation! Jessica, who worked at another store before transferring, said she liked working at the original Hooters because a lot of tourists, athletes and media make a special trip to see it. When I asked if she made more tips at this store, she replied, “I’m not allowed to talk about it, but I do very well.” Sounds like the same response the Wall Street CEOs have been giving. Her tips must be great.
The building itself is fairly unremarkable (they’re not known for their architecture), but I enjoyed browsing the photos on the walls detailing Hooters history. General manager, Jaun Esparis, has been with the company for 17 years. He said he loves the job but that it can get hectic. “I’ve been up since 5:30 AM,” he said. “My biggest challenge during the Super Bowl is trying to feed everybody on time.” Jaun said his Hooters store was planning a big party on Sunday and they would be giving away a flat screen TV. He predicted a Steelers win.
I tried to imagine what would happen if the Steelers opened a nationwide restaurant franchise that included tight shorts and tops. I shudder to think. We’ve all seen the shirtless Steelers fan in the stands in 20-degree weather who thinks his beer belly and man-boobs are exactly what NFL audiences are dying to see on a Sunday afternoon. Delightfully tacky, yet unrefined indeed!