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    Burdines to open furniture gallery

    The department store chain plans to open a store in January in the Village at Countryside shopping center.

    By LEON M. TUCKER

    © St. Petersburg Times, published December 5, 2000


    CLEARWATER -- In an effort to boost its presence in the Countryside area, the Burdines department store chain says it will open a 65,000-square-foot furniture gallery at U.S. 19 and Enterprise Road.

    Faced with an uncertain future surrounding Clearwater Mall, Burdines officials said they decided in June to sell their 160,000-square-foot store there, which will close by the beginning of next month.

    The chain is renovating a leased building inside the Village at Countryside shopping center. The company plans to open a furniture gallery there in January.

    "The new mall owner decided to reformat the Clearwater Mall and that format was not as conducive for a department store as was the old format," said Carey Watson, senior vice president of marketing for Burdines. "The tenant mix they were going for would not have been your typical mall. That was the issue behind (the move) because our store there was doing very well, and we were happy."

    New York-based New Plan Excel Realty Plus, which owns Clearwater Mall, bought the Burdines store at the mall for a reported $4.8-million. New Plan officials have said they will announce plans for the site early next year.

    Watson, meanwhile, said the furniture gallery will allow the already booming Burdines inside Countryside Mall to expand its other departments once the furniture department is moved off site.

    "The concept behind the furniture gallery has been very successful," said Watson. "The other benefit is you get to move some business out of the store. That allows you to expand the other departments in the store from which the furniture came."

    Colliers Arnold represented Burdines in the sale of the Clearwater Mall anchor which has been at that location for 25 years. The store will remain open throughout the holiday season and plans to close in late January.

    The new furniture gallery has a good chance of success, said Jim Roberts, broker with Colliers Arnold commercial real estate firm.

    "I think Burdines will bring a highly focused retail furniture and home furnishing design capability to the area that's a hot area in retailing today," Roberts said. "That area with Burdines and a number of furniture specialty stores has emerged as a destination for home furnishing on the west coast."

    The furniture gallery will be Burdines' seventh. It also will be housed inside the former Uptons department store. Uptons' parent company, American Retail Group, announced in July 1999 plans to close its stores 75 stores.

    In a time where many other department stores have been forced to close, Burdines officials are not worried.

    "Because we're a regional store, we can stay focused on the Florida customer," Watson said. "We're also in a state that is growing very fast. So when you combine aggressive marketing and growth, that is why we've remained successful for 102 years."

    On Monday, construction crews worked inside the shell of the gallery site painting and installing new walls, light fixtures and floors. According to Roberts, construction on the store's interior began about six weeks ago.

    "This is a sign of maturation and sophistication in northern Pinellas county," Roberts said. "This store's success will lead to more successful higher end specialty retail stores settling in the market."

    - Information from Times files was used in this report.

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