Being, the eclectic home furnishings store that has called BayWalk home for seven years, is moving to the Old Northeast neighborhood March 1.
Owner Amy Bromley, who is not renewing her lease at BayWalk, said the reason for the move wasn't so much about the shopping complex's rough times, but rather her own aspirations to grow her interior design consulting business. But she did say that she anticipates more foot traffic in the new space, in a historic art deco building in the Fourth Street Garden District.
"We were happy to be part of BayWalk," said Bromley, who was raised in Atlanta. "But I think we are doing the right thing for our store."
Bromley opens shop at 1575 Fourth St. N, which sits across from Bob Lee's Tire Co. Built in 1939, the building housed the Brown Nash automobile dealership until 1974. In 2006, the property was home to the Corner Antique Mall. That year, local developer Jay Miller of J Square Developers bought the property from the Brown family.
When Miller's rehabilitation was completed last year, he won a commercial restoration award from the not-for-profit St. Pete Preservation Inc. He brought back architectural details like sleek black Vitrolite tiles on the facade that had been painted over.
Since the original structure was warehouse-sized, Miller tore down a third of the building from the rear and added more parking spaces. One retail space remains available there, Miller said.
In the new space, Bromley will not only bring over her chic displays of frames, candles, rugs, bed linens and furniture, but also carve out a space for a design library to use with clients during design consultations, she said.
Bromley said the Old Northeast neighborhood is home to much of her client base. With her departure, the art and accessory store Shapiro's becomes the only home decor vendor at BayWalk.
In the past months, several high profile clients, including clothing retailer Ann Taylor, have abandoned the embattled shopping center, which launched in 2000 as a symbol of downtown St. Petersburg's economic rebirth.
In November, STP Redevelopment stopped making mortgage payments. The firm's owner, Fred Bullard, then sued the lender before a judge signed off on a foreclosure and appointed an interim property manager. Since then, the court removed the property manager, Howard Rosenthal, from that role after his arrest on charges he embezzled nearly $171,000 from a previous employer. A public auction is set for Feb. 13.
Bromley said her seven years at BayWalk allowed her to build a loyal client base, even as she cut back staff amid a dwindling economy. She began with 15 employees; they now number 10.
While she begins a new chapter in her own business, Bromley holds out hope for the shopping center's future.
"I really think that BayWalk is going to rise again," she said.
Luis Perez can be reached at Lperez@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2271.