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Furniture retailer cracks U.S. market

By SHARON GINN Times Correspondent
Published September 7, 2007

The way Darko Bobinac tells it, the Slovenia-based TOM furniture company has long wanted to break into the U.S. market, which is full of young urbanites looking for the kind of modern furniture the company is known for.

TOM is using Tampa as its entry point, opening a showroom Saturday at 2507 S MacDill Ave. The decision to try Tampa first is no accident: It was the brainchild of Bobinac and his brother Branko, whose father runs TOM's showroom in Slovakia.

Darko said he and his brother are both Tampa residents and were looking to start a business.

They conducted market research for TOM, and company officials found it intriguing enough to fly over for a visit. TOM quickly committed to financing a showroom in a 3,000-square-foot space at the corner of MacDill and W San Jose Street, Darko Bobinac said.

"They're a very big company, in business for 50 years," he said. "They're expanding all over the world, in Russia, in Europe, South America and Africa. They always wanted to come to the United States, and they were trying to find people they trust."

Bobinac said the company hopes to appeal to buyers moving into the sleek and trendy new lofts and condos nearby.

"Our target market would be South Tampa residents looking for something modern, high quality and high design," Bobinac said. "And all the people moving into downtown Tampa are looking for something functional and (of) quality."

Hours will be Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Bobinac said they will have several furniture pieces in stock, and the rest can be custom-ordered with a delivery time of six to eight weeks.

Kids resale shop opens

Kate Weston is betting that many of the parents who shop for trendy clothes in South Tampa's children's boutiques are still hanging onto pieces that their kids have outgrown.

Weston decided to open a Once Upon a Child retail resale store at 4538 W Kennedy Blvd., a few blocks east of WestShore Plaza. The store, part of a national chain based in Minneapolis, buys and sells gently used and new clothing up to size 14, toys, videos, baby gear like strollers and "anything that has to do with your child," Weston said. The store opened Aug. 22.

For eight years, Weston ran a Once Upon a Child store in Brandon owned by family members, then decided to open up her own location in Largo. South Tampa was a natural fit for her second store, she said.

Once Upon a Child differs from traditional consignment stores in that people bringing in items don't have to wait until they sell to get paid, she said.

"We buy outright," Weston said. "You bring stuff, and we pay you cash right then, either cash or store credit."

Weston said the store only accepts items "in really great shape" and the 3,000-square-foot space is organized neatly. Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

A shop for browsing

Deborah Granado-Hayes cheerfully calls her new Ballast Point Antiques store a "junk shop," but sees it as junk only in the best sense of the word.

"I've been collecting for a long time, and my husband is just very glad to see my house emptying out some," Granado-Hayes said with a laugh. "I've bought stuff I've loved for years and said, 'Someday I'm going to have my own shop.' "

The store, at 5110 S MacDill Ave., carries a variety of furniture pieces, from antique to shabby chic and an eclectic mix of other items.

Displayed in vignettes throughout the store are vintage decorative and Christmas items, odd conversation pieces, "things that are whimsical and fun," Granado-Hayes said.

"There's nothing in here you couldn't possibly live without," she said. "Your life would go on. This is like a little place to come and feel good, a little retail therapy."

Hours are Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Granado-Hayes said she expects to offer Tuesday hours within a few weeks.

Do you know something that should be everybody's business? Call 226-3394 or e-mail

[Last modified September 6, 2007, 08:27:36]

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