WESLEY CHAPEL — It's about time.
Just about everyone who came Wednesday to the new Dillard's, the first new store to open at the Shops at Wiregrass, said that in so many words.
"I'm ecstatic," said Renee Glassman, 58, of the nearby Meadow Pointe neighborhood. She would have been standing at the door when employees opened it at 10 a.m. but she volunteers at Sand Pine Elementary School.
"The minute I was finished volunteering I was here," said Glassman, who admitted she was "ready to shop."
Managers estimate about 60 people visited the store when the doors opened. The opening was known as a "soft opening," which means it isn't publicized.
"It's practice," said Lisa Rice, manager of the ready to wear department. "It's to make sure everything works."
The 145,000-square-foot store is part of the new outdoor mall, referred to in development circles as a "lifestyle center." The mall now has more than 60 stores, and when fully leased, expects to have 100 shops and restaurants, including a double-decker Barnes & Noble bookstore.
The new mall officially opens Oct. 30. Macy's has its soft opening today, while both department stores have grand openings set for Saturday. JCPenney, which is also one of the anchors, opened in 2005. It is also offering giveaways and promotions.
This morning, shoppers strolled among the racks of designer clothes, high-end cosmetics, fine china and twinkling Christmas trees.
"We moved here two years ago," said Patricia Biasi, 35, who was at the store with her husband, Franco and their 3-year-old daughter, Sofia. "And we've been counting the days. We wanted to be one of the first people to see it."
The family lives in Grand Hampton, just over the Hillsborough County line. The new mall, a first for central Pasco, is big because it will likely lure shoppers — and their sales taxes — north from Hillsborough, which is where east Pasco shoppers, with few exceptions, were forced to drive in order to shop at anything that didn't end with the words "Club" or "Mart."
It also lured 48-year-old Mattie Jones from Dade City.
"I'm glad we finally have something like this, and a Macy's too," said Jones as she looked at replicas of Jacqueline Kennedy's gowns, part of an Oleg Cassini display. The designer sells a line of dresses at Dillard's.
Lisa Buie can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 909-4604.