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Three decades -- and business is booming

The widening of Tampa Road to six lanes makes all the difference in Oldsmar's development.

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 18, 2003

OLDSMAR -- Picture it: Tampa Road, 1970.

This small town has a population of 1,538 and a main drag with only two lanes. And there's nothing on the stretch of road but Heath Sign Co. and a vacant restaurant.

There is no drugstore, no grocery store and no dentist in the entire city. There is one doctor's office on St. Petersburg Drive. And a small barbershop sits on the corner of Exeter and State streets.

Some days, not a single car drives down the road.

The year 1980 brings a McDonald's and the Oldsmar Flea Market. The market is one building, 50 spaces and a few carnival tents.

Then comes the traffic.

"I remember sitting (in traffic) at that McDonald's and being able to see that McDonald's for a half-hour," said Kevin Gartland, president of the Oldsmar/Upper Tampa Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Fast forward to 1996, when work began to widen Tampa Road from two to six lanes. The project would take more than three years. Some local restaurants would close because of the effects of the construction on their businesses.

But those that hung on reaped the benefits.

An AMC Woodlands 20, a megaplex with stadium seating and high-quality sound, opened in March 2000. A Wal-Mart Supercenter opened in 2001. Today, there are numerous, relatively new places to grab a burger and fries: Ruby Tuesday, Wendy's and Steak n Shake.

They have come to Oldsmar for two main reasons. The first: Oldsmar's location. The second: Tampa Road. The road, which sees more than 39,000 cars a day, has become a focal point of activity in Oldsmar, which now has a population of about 12,000.

"It's such a heavily traveled road," said Gartland. "That's why you're seeing the chains."

William Touloumis, president and chief executive officer of Olympia Development Group Inc., knew this was going to happen.

In 1997, he bought 9 acres of land on Tampa Road. Touloumis started with a Walgreens, which opened in August 1998. He leased ground to Chick-fil-A and then sold two parcels to Dunkin' Donuts and Sonic.

"Every time we have a super Wal-Mart it generates a lot of activity," Touloumis said. "Just imagine all those people that go to Wal-Mart. At some point, they have to eat."

Dunkin' Donuts and Chick-fil-A opened last year. The businesses appear to be doing well, he said. The three chains are feeding off one another.

"The Walgreens is picking up," he said. "We see this crossover of people going for lunch, will stop at Walgreens, pick up prescriptions and purchase various things."

Dunkin' Donuts opened Nov. 7, 2002. Co-owner Lucia Brum said the shop has been busy from day one. The shop also sells Baskin-Robbins ice cream.

"The ice cream brings the customers back at night to have dessert," said Brum. "My doughnut sales are up. I believe it has a lot to do with the ice cream."

Fran Kreighbaum, manager of the Steak n Shake on Tampa Road, said her business is doing just as well. The Midwest chain, known for steak burgers and milkshakes, opened in October.

So what's left?

Cherry limeades, caramel macchiatos and baked focaccia sandwiches -- the specialties of Sonic, Starbucks and Panera Bread restaurant, respectively.

Sonic, a 1950s-style hamburger chain that features roller-skating carhops, is scheduled to open April 21, said Marc Mackenzie, the franchisee.

The restaurant includes a 1,930-square-foot building, a canopy and 28 parking spaces. And instead of drive-through lanes, the restaurant's claim-to-fame is offering parking stalls equipped with menus and curbside speakers.

The signs are already up for Panera Bread and Starbucks, which will be housed in a 6,100-square-foot building at the corner of Tampa and Curlew Roads.

Panera Bread, which has everything from fresh-baked breads to soups and sandwiches, is scheduled to open at the end of June, according to Michael Flewelling, director of operations. Starbucks should be open in mid to late May.

"It's kind of prestigious to have a Starbucks in Oldsmar," said Mayor Jerry Beverland.

-- Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Megan Scott can be reached at (727) 445-4183 or .

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