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Lindt Chocolates, Tanya and Matt's Ice Creamiest close at Tampa's WestShore Plaza

WEST SHORE — Trips to WestShore Plaza are a little less sweet this year.

Tanya and Matt's Ice Creamiest, the go-to ice cream shop for parents wandering anywhere near the food court, left the mall early last month. Just days before the closure, Lindt Chocolates also closed its retail store.

With those stores gone, plus the absence of two cookie shops that closed last year, it's a bit harder for shoppers to grab a quick dessert. The best remaining option is You Say When yogurt shop, which opened near Macy's last fall in the space formerly occupied by the Great American Cookie Co.

"I have a sweet tooth that I'm not satisfying right now either," mall general manager Jay Botsch said with a chuckle. "The good news is we have (started) dialogue with other folks."

Tanya Rubin, owner of the Tanya & Matt's West Shore location, said declining sales in 2008 and 2009 forced her to close. "Rent was very high," she said.

"Snack items in malls aren't doing as well," she said, now that many people have cut back on spending in an uncertain economy.

"We were there 10 years. We really felt bad because we have so many loyal customers."

Rubin said she is in talks to open a location in Westchase in the next few months. She hopes to post details soon on the company's Web site, icecreamiest.com. The Tanya and Matt's store in Carrollwood remains open.

Citing mall policy, Botsch declined to comment on the details of the ice cream shop's lease and departure. The Lindt store closed, he said, after its parent company made a decision to close all U.S. retail stores.

It's hard to say when the mall may be able to bring in another ice cream or cookie store, he said.

"It's just a matter of timing," Botsch said. "The economy sadly plays a part."

Store goes to the . . . babies

It's nothing new for Downtown Dogs to carry a selection of tiny outfits for those who want to dress up a constant companion.

Until now, though, the outfits have all been for . . . well, dogs. After five years at Hyde Park Village, owner Rene Neff has decided to add baby clothes, gear and toys to the mix.

It was part of the original plan for Downtown Dogs all along, said Neff. But until recently (she had a baby boy last year) Neff didn't quite relate to the needs of parents and babies.

"I have a 10-month-old and he was part of the inspiration to incorporate some baby items," she said. "With the changing economy, it was an opportunity to change my inventory."

Neff said she took out some of the more high-end dog clothing and items out of her inventory and has replaced it with clothes for the under-2 set, plus diaper bags, toys, and other baby-related gear.

She didn't have to look hard to find some of it. One of the doggie carrier brands she stocks at Downtown Dogs also makes matching diaper bags. Another manufacturer makes two kinds of organic toys: those that squeak (for pups) and those that don't (for babies).

The clothes come from companies like Barefoot Dreams and Little Giraffe; many are made of organic cotton.

"The clothing I carry is very nature-inspired," Neff said.

Hours at Downtown Dogs are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 10 to 8 Thursday through Saturday and noon to 5 Sunday.

Do you know something that should be everybody's business? Call (813) 226-3394 or e-mail sharonlginn@yahoo.com.

Lindt Chocolates, Tanya and Matt's Ice Creamiest close at Tampa's WestShore Plaza 02/25/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 6:13pm]

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