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College Hunks: Ybor's newest movers and ... shakers?

By Mina Abgoon | Creative Loafing Contributor

Ybor was founded by cigar manufacturers in the 1880s. Now our beloved cigar city is under jurisdiction of a new and powerful force: College Hunks.

On Nov. 9, College Hunks Hauling Junk founders Omar Soliman and Nick Friedman — along with Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Rick Homans, President & CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation — stood proudly in front of the company's new offices at 1513 E. Ninth Ave. in Ybor City.

With stereotypical oversized scissors in hand and a wide grin across his face, Friedman cut through a yellow ribbon while dozens of visitors exploded in applause and snapped photos. A mascot wearing a “College Hunks” T-shirt jumped up and down and clapped his hands.

It was official.

What this ribbon signified was the opening of a 10,000-square-foot world headquarters of U.S. based junk removal and moving company “College Hunks Hauling Junk” and “College Hunks Moving.” The transformed building was previously an art gallery called “Arts on 9th.”

It is complete with the national call center — in this room, the team has the morning huddle in, stating the goals of the day. They also kick a stuffed football through a field-goal, and if they make it, they get to spin for a gift card.

It even contains a franchise education center, where franchises from all over the country can come to for training. The Tampa location for the company along with all the moving trucks is now also housed here.

A portion of the building, which used to be an artist’s loft, is still unused. What this section will be transformed into is still unknown.

The inside of the building painted bright orange and green inside, creating a fun and enthusiastic atmosphere.

“Ybor is a fun and unique place, and we’re a fun and unique company,” said Friedman. “It’s a match made in heaven.”

Having started in 2003 as an extra way for the founders to make cash, the company expanded on in 2004 after Soliman won $10,000 in a Business Plan Contest.

Since expanding to nearly 50 franchises around the nation, “College Hunks” has been ranked amid Inc. magazine's “500 Fastest Growing Companies” list.

But the junk service and moving company means more to Ybor than an excuse to watch hot “hunks” on the job.

Chris Jackson, director of marketing, said the company’s mission is to “move the world.”

Although that statement could also be taken quite literally, the meaning lying behind it is to grow to 250 franchises within the next 5 years, and to become the largest employer for college students.

Well, if that’s the case, they’ve chosen just the right neighborhood to set up shop.

Located directly across the street from a college campus — more specifically, Hillsborough Community College’s Ybor campus — the new headquarters will be a fantastic employment opportunity for the younger crowd.

In his speech prior to the ribbon-cutting, Buckhorn compared the growing business to Ybor’s historic past and praised the founders’ passion in their business.

“What we see what embodied in these two is the future of Tampa; young, enthusiastic entrepreneurs,” he said. “What you see in Ybor’s history is the remnants of that.”

Buckhorn said that the electricity of the founders is helping the city to “turn a page.”

“We love these guys. They’re making us proud” Buckhorn said, “and we expect bigger and better things from them.”

Original Article - http://cltampa.com/dailyloaf/archives/2012/11/15/college-hunks-the-new-faces-of-ybor-city#.UKZmIYdT9FA

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