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Kohl's romancing area shoppers

The popular retail chain has some salivating at deals. Nearby restaurants await more business.

By BILL COATS
Published October 1, 2006


LUTZ - A Beall's store is only minutes away from Darla Salata's Northdale home. But it couldn't satisfy her restless yearning.

"I kept thinking: I'm going to have to go out to Lakeland to see the Kohl's," she said.

Now she won't have to. The fast-growing Kohl's Corp. is opening a store today on Van Dyke Road, along with others in Brandon, Countryside and 62 other locations around the nation.

"I couldn't wait for it to get here," Salata said.

Kohl's plans a ribbon-cutting and a brief ceremony at 7:45 a.m. Thursday, marking its official grand opening. But the store's "soft opening" is today, said Bill Brigham, Kohl's Atlanta-based regional manager. Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. other days.

Brigham said the store will maintain a staff of 200 through Christmas. Thereafter, it should average 160-165 employees during holiday seasons, and 135-150 otherwise.

Around the Tampa Bay area, Kohl's becomes a new rival to midpriced stores such as Beall's, TJMaxx, Stein Mart and Marshalls. But Kohl's also sells enough home goods ranging from pillows to dinnerware that it competes with Bed Bath & Beyond and Linens 'n' Things.

Kohl's entered Florida a year ago, opening three stores around Jacksonville and seven in the Orlando area. Retail experts said the Orlando stores snatched a sliver of business away from a broad group of competitors.

Kohl's will draw Salata, a 56-year-old hospital billing coordinator, away from Beall's and the malls.

"The clothes at Kohl's are every bit as good as Macy's and Dillard's, but it's half the cost," Salata said.

Salata and her husband, Jim, knew Kohl's from the stores in their home state of Ohio, and appreciated its classic Midwestern styles. But they may find a modified clothing mix now that Kohl's has expanded from sweater land to tank-top land. Kohl's Florida stores stock the traditional garb, Brigham said, "but there'll be a layer on top of that for the Florida customer."

"We've been very methodical about our entry into Florida," he said. "We're continuing to refine that merchandise."

In the Northgate Square shopping center, Kohl's replaced the splashy but empty Hollywood 20 theater, which closed after showing movies for only three years. The big theater was doomed once the company building it was bought by the chain planning the competing Citrus Park 20.

The only remnant of the Hollywood 20 is a sprawling parking lot. "We'll make good use of that lot," Brigham said.

A Burger King sitting at the entrance to the Hollywood 20 had enjoyed extra business from moviegoers, especially at night - only to see them vanish.

"We're ecstatic that we have something in there in place of the movie theater," said Julie Brantley, business coordinator for the Burger King's owners.

Splash! An Ocean Grill is the closest business to Kohl's, and Chip Roehl, a partner in the restaurant, is looking forward to a stream of shoppers discovering Splash.

"We've spent five years at the back end of the shopping center with no visibility," Roehl said. "It's a breath of fresh air to have a national retailer opening next to us."

Brigham said, "Our store being there will allow that area to start really moving toward a critical mass from a retail perspective."

"It'll probably save me from going down to Beall's," said Jane Salzer, who lives in the Crenshaw Lakes neighborhood southeast of Northgate Square.

Salzer works with Salata, and has soaked up some of her zeal.

"We went to dinner at Splash," said Salzer's husband, John. "Afterward, we had to walk over there and look in the window and ooh and aah at the sales signs."

Staff writer Mark Albright contributed to this article. Bill Coats can be reached at coats@sptimes.com or 813 269-5309.

[Last modified September 30, 2006, 21:46:02]


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