Talk to any Hyde Park retailer and you'll get an earful of frustration with a shot of optimism.
"To be honest, I was done," said Jeff Manzutto, who owns A Source for the Home. He expected to be packing his wares when his five-year lease was up last month.
"The developers sought me out in 2004, from a Howard Avenue location," Manzutto said, "as the kind of independent that exemplified what Hyde Park wanted to go back to, after the Gap, Sharper Image and Storehouse."
Sales nose-dived this summer, however, as customers put off purchases for the contemporary dinnerware and upscale gifts he stocks.
But the opening of CineBistro today clinched the deal for Manzutto to stay.
"It would have been a harder decision," he said. "They feel like it's going to turn the village around."
That sentiment is pervasive among the merchants and employees hanging tough in the South Tampa residential/retail complex.
Cobb Theatre's CineBistro concept offers six theaters with cocktails and restaurant service, plus lobby snack bar. Customers must be 21 years and older to order at one of the dining tables before the movie starts.
"Movies bring a different crowd, people who don't know about Hyde Park," said Breanna Schlage, spinning a smoothie recently at Nature's Table Café. "I didn't know about it until I started working here."
Hyde Park Village facilities manager Walter Cobb added, "I think it's probably the best thing that ever happened to Hyde Park."
Marketing staff began cross-promotions Oct. 10 with a free CineBistro ticket for village purchases of at least $25. Shoppers spending $50 or more got two tickets, said Susan Martin, general manager. She'll jump on more opportunities as they arise and is looking forward to the Gasparilla International Film Festival tie-ins.
But when asked about other future tenants and the status of the planned $100 million redevelopment, which included condominiums, Martin referred questions to Ben Schall, senior vice president of Vornado Realty Trust.
Schall said he was not authorized to speak to the press. "No comment," he said, when pressed for an update on village developments. "There's nothing I can say.''
An Oct. 9 article in the Wall Street Journal reported a 10.3 percent third-quarter retail vacancy rate for U.S. open-air shopping centers, the highest since 1992. And waves of store closures, nearly 8,300 tallied by the Federal Reserve so far this year, have landlords making concessions as demand declines.
Hyde Park Village has not escaped the trend.
Manzutto said he analyzed his sales figures with leasing agent Sheila Lynch, and renegotiated an open-ended lease.
"They didn't want me to leave,'' Manzutto said, "but it's all about the numbers."
Sales associate Cristina Gonzalez, a Miami transplant, sighed as she gazed out the window at Coco Brazil boutique.
"It's the best location," Gonzalez said, "an outdoor experience, a tourist attraction.
"This place should be booming," she said. "I should not have time to talk to you. I should be so busy."
Amy Scherzer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3332.