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Dillard's buys former Ward store

The space at Gulf View Square mall will allow the national retailer to offer a broader range of goods, especially home furnishing products.

By JENNIFER GOLDBLATT

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2001


PORT RICHEY -- Dillard's Inc. has bought the empty Montgomery Ward & Co. store at Gulf View Square mall, and plans to move into that space so it can offer its full line of products, mall officials say.

Julie Bull, a spokeswoman for the Little Rock, Ark.-based chain could not confirm those plans.

"We're still evaluating the best use of this property," she said. "But Florida is certainly an important state for us, especially in the Tampa/St. Pete area, so we welcome any opportunity to enhance our business there."

Dillard's has occupied a 107,000-square-foot space at Gulf View Square for the past decade, but the store does not include a home furnishings department.

Chicago-based Montgomery Ward closed all 250 of its stores earlier this year, leaving 120 people who worked at its Port Richey store without jobs and 144,000 square feet of empty space at Pasco's only mall.

Dillard's paid $21-million to buy eight Montgomery Ward stores nationwide, including the one in Port Richey.

Mall officials now are negotiating with a national retailer to fill the two-story space that Dillard's plans to leave, said mall spokeswoman Kelly Lowrey. Dillard's has seven other locations in the Tampa Bay area.

Gulf View Square, which is owned by Simon Property Group, also is anchored by Burdines, JCPenney, and Sears, Roebuck & Co. The mall wrapped up a $9-million renovation in 1999, which included the addition of a food court.

In an effort to reach a younger shopping crowd, the mall signed a host of name-brand tenants last year, including Pacific Sunwear, Old Navy and the Gap.

- Jennifer Goldblatt covers business in Pasco County. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6229 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6229.

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