NEW PORT RICHEY — A shuttered Kmart store on U.S. 19 is poised to become the new home of Friendly Kia.
The dealership's owner, Gilliss & Gilliss Inc., purchased the nearly 11.5-acre site at 5743 U.S. 19 for $3.125 million. The transaction closed in late March.
Kmart announced in 2014 that it was closing the store, which was built in 1972. A Tampa-based company, 19 & Cross Bayou LLC, acquired the site 10 months ago for $3 million.
Friendly Kia already had been leasing the property to park approximately 750 cars on the site, which is adjacent to its existing dealership. Friendly Kia president John Gilliss said plans call for demolishing the Kmart store and replacing it with a 40,000-square-foot building. The offices at the existing dealership site at 5819 U.S. 19 also will be torn down once the new facility is completed.
"Our business has been growing so much, it's got to the point we need to have a more modern facility,'' Gilliss said. "On Saturday and Sunday, people are literally standing in line to sit down and negotiate a deal.''
The dealership, which began 19 years ago, sells 750 new and used vehicles monthly, making it the No. 6 Kia dealership nationally based on volume of new car sales, Gilliss said. The dealership and an adjoining carwash the company began three years ago employ 110, he said.
The Kmart store sits on the far west side of the 900-foot-deep parcel. Gilliss said the new dealership building will be moved to the east, closer to the frontage on U.S. 19. He said a cost for the new building hadn't been determined yet, but he hopes it can open in 12 to 18 months.