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Rumors replace Jacobson's

Village managers aren't saying, but shopkeepers know what they want: something ritzy and upscale.

By SUSAN THURSTON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 29, 2002


Maggie Arnold has a soft spot for the Old Hyde Park Village. She started shopping there when it opened in 1985 and stayed loyal, despite high turnover and new competition.

Arnold cheered when Anthropologie and Pottery Barn moved in.

She barely whimpered when Jacobson's announced it was leaving.

"I never shopped there," she said. "The selection just wasn't for me."

Arnold, who lives on Davis Islands, has high hopes for the new tenants. Her preference? A gourmet grocery store.

Two months after the department store chain said it was closing stores in Tampa and Clearwater, rumors rage about what will take over the corner spot. Fresh Market and Crate & Barrel immediately emerged as front-runners, but village managers are keeping mum.

"All I can tell you is that the neighborhood and community will be very happy about it," general manager Pat Westerhouse said.

Westerhouse says the 50,000-square-foot space will be split into two stores. She originally expected three but changed her mind after talks with prospective tenants.

The owner of the village, Madison Marquette, hopes to have a deal signed within 60 days and the first store up and running by the end of the year, perhaps in time for the Christmas rush. The second store would follow by spring 2003.

The work won't end there. The village's lease with the AMC 7 Hyde Park expires in 2003, and village officials expect the theaters to bid farewell. About 50 have opened in the area, all with stadium seating.

"They haven't said, but we're realistic," Westerhouse said. "The writing is on the wall."

Despite the uncertain future, village managers and tenants remain upbeat: Sure, losing Jacobson's hurts but it also provides an opportunity for newer, even better, retail.

"I'm glad they're gone. They needed a facelift bad," said Robert Weeks, owner of the Tarpon Bay Trading Company.

"Jacobson's did not make or break us."

The high-end department store was the first to commit to the quaint, though out-of-the-way, center at Swann and Dakota avenues. Over the years, the store did little in terms of renovations and gradually lost its luster to more trendy shops, such as Tommy Bahama and Restoration Hardware.

Jacobson's closed for good on Tuesday. Last week, only a few items remained; among them, a fur coat slashed from $8,000 to a bargain $1,600.

A few doors down, Chico's manager Patti Marsh saw no need to panic. Like many stores in the village, Chico's has a core following unaffected by Jacobson's.

She's also hopeful that the management will find good tenants that will draw the well-to-do South Tampa crowd.

"We capitalized on the (closing) sale and we'll capitalize when something new comes in," she said.

Customers agreed the stores should cater to the young professionals and families who live within walking distance.

Kevin Shaughness, 21, wants a place to buy bread, milk and other staples. A bowling alley wouldn't be bad. Neither would a laser tag arena, though he knows chances are slim.

Joe Guthrie, 55, wants one-stop Christmas shopping. He'll miss Jacobson's but isn't too heartbroken. Large shopping plazas -- WestShore and International -- aren't far away.

Whatever goes in, shopkeepers want it upscale and ritzy.

"Nothing el-cheapo," said Maryann Wachtel, a sales associate for Austen-Hyde. "We want class around here."

- Susan Thurston can be reached at 226-3394 or thurston@sptimes.com.

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