For a while, even after the economy turned sour, Hernando County continued to see new stores pop up. Kohl's and Target opened on Spring Hill Drive. A Publix supermarket opened in the Shoppes at Avalon on County Line Road. Sports Authority and Best Buy opened on U.S. 19 in Spring Hill.
For national companies, new stores are usually in the pipeline long before shoppers walk in clutching their grand opening fliers.
But now, with bank lending on hold and consumers watching their pocketbooks, that pipeline is nearly dry. And it's uncertain when residents will see new shopping centers, box stores or national chain restaurants opening any time soon.
Two exceptions were when HHGregg and Bed Bath & Beyond filled empty stores left behind at Coastal Landing Shopping Center after Circuit City and Linens 'n Things declared bankruptcy. The new stores, which opened just a few months later, offered similar merchandise and were able to capitalize on both location and consumer knowledge.
For the foreseeable future, it's likely that smaller shops, franchises and mom-and-pops will continue to backfill the empty storefronts around Hernando County, said Michael McHugh, the county's director of business development.
One location that shows economic promise this year is U.S. 19 near the new Pasco-Hernando Community College campus, scheduled to open late this summer.
Owner Craig Turner says his restaurant, which recently went through a renovation and name change — from Dairy Queen to DQ Grill & Chill — has benefited from the PHCC construction, and he expects it will be a popular place with students and staff when the campus opens.
The restaurant has had good numbers so far, even during what is normally the slowest time of year. And Turner is optimistic about the future.
"Competition has thinned out," he said. "Folks who have made it have leaned down and positioned themselves to come back."
Shary Lyssy Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.