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Miami Optical Gear Firm Booms As Comet Nears Earth

August 27, 1985

MIAMI (AP) _ As Halley’s Comet nears, an optical gear distributor that lost its stock in 1980 riots sees a business recovery in the stars.

″I had no inventory, but had insurance,″ said George Rosenfield, 59, who founded Tasco 31 years ago. During the Liberty City riots, the company - one of the nation’s biggest optics distributors, lost its warehouse and stock.

In the riot’s wake, he recalls his wife asking, ″Isn’t it time to quit?″

But by 1984′s end, sales were up to $51 million, he said, and business is hot, as customers flock to buy equipment needed to spot Halley’s Comet when it starts coming into view this month.

″This is just the beginning of a business,″ said Sheryl Rosenfield, Rosenfield’s daughter and executive vice president of Tasco. ″There have been huge demands for telescopes starting this year.

″Will Halley’s Comet be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? Can it become the opportunity for a new business, a new performance?″

In July, Tasco sales were 78 percent above the same period last year, and in some Southern locations, the number of retailers who want to sell Tasco products is up 50 percent from last year, company officials said.

Tasco and its competitors hope comet-gazing fever will lead skywatchers to shell out between $60 and $2,500 each to bring the 50-million-mile-long tail of comet dust into brighter and sharper focus.

The comet, which zooms by the Earth every 76 years, is already visible this month, but only through powerful telescopes. Viewers with binoculars will be able to spot the comet by late November, while people planning to look at Halley’s with the naked eye must wait until around New Year’s Day.

South Florida, especially the Florida Keys, is the best place in the continental United States to view Halley’s comet.

The Liberty City riots were sparked by the acquittals of five white police officers in the beating death of a black insurance agent.

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