The unmistakable clanking of tools — and the whir of busy cash registers — greet visitors to the new Harbor Freight Tools store on Commercial Way.
Billing itself as "the nation's largest discount tool retailer" and offering more than 7,000 tools and accessories for "ridiculously low prices," Harbor Freight will stage a grand opening Wednesday at the 16,000-square-foot outlet, its 34th in Florida among a nationwide network of 450 stores.
"And it's doing quite well already," marketing supervisor Collin Ozar said last week from corporate headquarters in Calabasas, Calif.
The local store unlocked its doors for a soft opening Oct. 27.
"We've had a lot of success in Florida," Ozar said.
The company, founded in 1977, chose Spring Hill for its latest location because there already are neighboring stores in New Port Richey and Crystal River.
Manager Frank D'Ambrosio, with Harbor Freight for six years and coming from a similar position in New Port Richey, oversees a workforce of 38, six of them full-time, with Monica Allison and Raymond Busiel as assistant managers. Hiring was done through Career Central's office in Spring Hill.
The company's website states that its automotive, air and power tools, shop equipment and hand tools sell at 80 percent less than famous brands.
"We cut out the middlemen," D'Ambrosio said.
Harbor Freight's goods are produced under its own brand names by manufacturers in China. Hand tools carry a lifetime guarantee.
Its website also notes that national brand products carry a built-in cost to cover extensive advertising expenses.
Harbor Freight's current 16-page tabloid flier advertises items ranging from 99 cents for a 15-slot socket rail to $1,099.99 for a 14-hp, 180-psi truck bed, gas-powered air compressor.
Available in stores are signup cards to receive the monthly fliers by mail, which will offer only those recipients extra discounts.
In a news release touting the grand opening, company president Eric Smidt stated: "In today's cost-conscious times, Harbor Freight offers a necessary alternative to the 'big box' retailers that push high-priced brands with little attention to customer needs and service."
Harbor Freight fills the second-largest space in the Shoppes at Spring Hill plaza, exceeded only by Big Lots at 35,000 square feet. With traffic generated by the tool outlet, along with the new Rural King store next door, "Tenants tell me (visitors) have increased by 1,000 percent (at the plaza)," said Marshall Williams of the leasing and management agent, Harris & Co. of Clearwater.
Leases are pending with two additional tenants — an insurance company and a cell phone/computer company — said a spokeswoman for Williams. Four other available units contain between 1,200 and 2,700 square feet.
Williams noted that plaza tenants have expressed a desire for a breakfast and lunch cafe, adding that one of the available spaces is fully equipped for a restaurant.
Beth Gray can be contacted at [email protected]