Saturday, May 26, 2018
Business

Friends of Strays ponders big changes

PINELLAS PARK — After 18 years at the corner of U.S. 19 and Gandy Boulevard, the Friends of Strays Thrift Shop has closed. The future of the very visible, high-traffic location is uncertain.

"We're exploring all our options. It wasn't an easy decision to close," said Beverly Passe, executive director of the nonprofit. "The thrift store is really a great source of money to help our shelter."

The roof and main trusses of the 47-year-old building at 3660 Gandy Blvd. need repairs that will cost at least $30,000. Now the board of directors must decide if it will sell the property or tear it down and build a new thrift store and shelter. The current shelter is at 2911 47th Ave. N in St. Petersburg.

"Here's my dream: to partner with a construction company and build a new shelter and new thrift store at the Pinellas Park location. Everybody knows us from that corner," Passe said. The property would have to be rezoned to allow animals and a lot of money would need to be raised, she said.

If Friends of Strays sells the property it could still open a new thrift store and shelter at another location, she added. The Pinellas County Property Appraiser's office gives the 8,000-square-foot building a just market value of $584,137. Friends of Strays bought it in 1995 for $650,000.

"If they own the property free and clear, they still wield a lot of power as owners of well-positioned land right now. Developers are on the prowl for good retail locations," said Paula Clair Smith, a commercial broker with Merritt Realty Corp. "A location with 1.42 acres on U.S. 19 across from the Shoppes at Park Place is a prime location for retailers who would take down the current structure to build their own design."

Comparable sales figures show land with that retail potential is going for around $1.5 million an acre, Smith added.

Friends of Strays also owns its 5,000-square-foot shelter in the Joe's Creek industrial area. It has a market value of $201,000, according to the property appraiser.

The shelter currently holds about 200 cats and six dogs ready to be adopted.

"We only serve strays. The cats that have kittens under your shed or the dog that's eating out of your garbage," Passe said. The shelter doesn't euthanize animals in need of medical intervention, she added. It has a staff of nine people.

Until the thrift shop reopens, the shelter asks people to take donations to the Pet Pal Thrift Store at 1500 34th St. N or Second Image Thrift Store, 9099 U.S. 19 in the Mainlands Village shopping center. The Friends of Strays board will meet in January to start weighing its options.

Katherine Snow Smith can be reached at (727) 409-3642 or [email protected]

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