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Nine restaurants to open at Wesley Chapel's Shops at Wiregrass

The Shops at Wiregrass has signed two restaurants and a classy craft beer and wine bar that are new to the Tampa Bay area. They're among nine restaurants set to open when the Wesley Chapel lifestyle center debuts Oct. 30 with a Macy's and a Dillard's.

The latest restaurants are Cantina Laredo, a gourmet Tex-Mex restaurant from Dallas, and Cosi, one of the originators of salad and fresh-baked, crackly crust flatbread sandwich fare. Each store features an open hearth oven and serves s'mores.

The 26-store Cantina Laredo chain has been described as the P.F. Chang of Mexican food.

Shorthand for the founder's favorite Mozart opera, the 132-store Cosi chain has been a familiar site in some Macy's department stores in the Midwest and Northeast. For six months last year, the chain was steered by Bob Merritt, onetime chief financial officer of Tampa-based OSI Restaurants Partners Inc., who stepped up from his seat on the Cosi board to fill in as interim chief executive officer.

A craft beer pub boasting 40 draft brews, the Brass Tap promises to be a town square drawing card with live entertainment three nights a week.

Bankrolled by several local restaurateurs, the dark mahogany and leather bar room will open up thanks to a garage-door like wall to an outdoor patio with combined seating for about 200. The Brass Tap will stock cigars, wine and 350 microbrew or imported bottled beers for on-premises consumption or takeout, but no food or domestic suds.

"We won't serve Bud Light unless there is overwhelming demand," manager Tony Rosas said.

Two other signs construction is wrapping up at Wiregrass.

• A 30-foot-tall polished, stainless steel "W" that will serve as the center's iconic sign will be lifted into place next week.

• Several Shops at Wiregrass retailers will stage a job fair for prospective employees through Career Central, the Pasco Hernando Jobs and Education Partnership. It will be from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 26 and 27 at the Holiday Inn Express, 8310 Galbraith Road, Tampa.

• • •

Pandora Jewelry, a Danish chain whose claim to fame is distinctive charm bracelets, has opened its first Florida store and fourth in the United States at International Plaza in Tampa.

Founded in Copenhagen in 1984, Pandora specializes in 14-karat gold charms handcrafted in Thailand and sold through dealers and stores in 18 countries.

Prices range from two-tone beads for $12 to $1,000 diamond-encrusted charms commemorating anything from birthdays to job promotions. Several bay area jewelers stock Pandora jewelry.

The mall store carries the full line from a company whose slogan is "Life has its moments."

• • •

One less-mentioned dimension of Publix Super Markets' purchase of 49 Albertsons stores in Florida: Publix now has more than doubled its collection of liquor stores to 90.

That's still far behind the 200 package liquor licenses owned by Orlando-based ABC Fine Wine & Spirits.

But it's quite a leap from 2003 when Publix got back into the business after a long hiatus with two stores in South Florida.

Publix, however, did not use the acquisition to expand its experiment selling gasoline. The 15 Albertsons filling stations were sold to Reb Oil, a Stuart jobber that's leasing the gas pumps to independent operators.

• • •

Women are not always brand loyal if they can save money, says a survey complied by ShopSmart, a Consumers Union publication.

Two-thirds will switch brands of milk, eggs and over-the-counter medications to save a buck. Half will change toilet paper.

But only 38 percent will switch appliance brands if it means compromising quality, and fewer than a third will switch brands of cosmetics or pet food.

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8252.

Nine restaurants to open at Wesley Chapel's Shops at Wiregrass 09/15/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 7:12am]
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