The already-downsized Suncoast Paint and Design Center shut its doors for good last month, to the surprise of longtime customers who keep stopping by in search of their favorite paint.
The Benjamin Moore and Dyco paint retailer had been in business continuously since 1973. For years it sold wallpaper, pillows and window treatments, too, in a sprawling 6,000-square-foot space on the corner of Manhattan Avenue and El Prado Boulevard.
But after heavy rains in late July overtook the notoriously flood-prone corner — endangering the inventory yet again — Suncoast Paint moved the wallpaper to its Fletcher Avenue location, leaving the paint business to occupy a tiny corner of the store.
In late October, that closed, too.
"We just got tired of the flooding," said Pat Quinn, co-owner of the Suncoast Paints business that includes several other locations as well as Clearwater-based coatings manufacturer Dyco Paints.
"That flood we had (in July) wasn't even a hurricane," she said. "Cars come through and make tidal waves. We were on the news with kayaks going by the store. (Flooding) was probably the most driving issue."
Another was the economy, Quinn said. Business was brisk during the economic boom, making the flooding problems easier to take. And the store had been there as long as most people could remember.
Quinn and her husband purchased Suncoast Paint and Design about nine years ago from Scott Gandy, who had owned the store since 1973.
"It was a tough decision, I'll be quite honest with you," she said. "It broke (Gandy's) heart, I know it did."
Gandy, who still owns the building, said that section of the 11,000-square-foot retail center has not been empty in 55 years. He has been busy cleaning up and planning repairs.
"I was down there today and I bet you a dozen people walked in there with a can of paint," Gandy said.
"It's like the neighborhood hardware store … (Customers) want something just a little special, a special color, or whatever it takes. We would spend three hours making it exactly right. It's hard to find that these days."
The store's employees all were offered jobs in the company's other three Tampa Bay area locations, Quinn said. She said she hopes to reopen in South Tampa once she finds the right location.
New year, new tenant
The design center space may not be empty for long. One tenant will move in by January.
Art Explorers, an art school for preschool and elementary students, will move into the 800-square-foot space at 3427 S Manhattan Ave. that was formerly occupied by Suncoast's paint mixers. "It's appropriate," said owner Lori Shapiro.
Shapiro, a former elementary school teacher who has been teaching art classes for the past four years, said Art Explorers will cater to kids about age 3 and up. In addition to afternoon classes, the school also will offer open studio time for children to use its space and materials for bigger projects.
"It's really kind of sad because art and music is the first thing that's getting eliminated when they are cutting (school) budgets," Shapiro said. "We're marketing it as picking up where the education system leaves off."
Art Explorers also will offer camps, birthday parties and some adult classes in the evenings. For more information, call Shapiro at (813) 846-7601.
Boutique gets personal
Michelle Burtch knew she wanted to open a second location of her St. Petersburg boutique, Embellish, in South Tampa. She was just waiting for the perfect opportunity.
So when children's boutique Little Peeps downsized from two spaces to one last month, Burtch jumped on the empty 1,350-square-foot location in well-located Gaspar Plaza at 2225 S Dale Mabry Highway.
Burtch opened her gifts, accessories and stationery store last week. Embellish focuses on monogrammed gifts as well as semipersonalized items (those adorned with just a first name or initial) that are easy to pick up for a quick gift.
"You can grab it on the way to a lunch or take it to somebody's birthday right then," Burtch said. "The core of our business is gifts for women, but we have things for babies and kids, too."
Burtch said since her first store opened in April 2007, she has been careful to offer a wide variety of price points. "If you can only spend $20 or $25, we have something for you that is special and different from what you can get at Target or a department store," she said.
Hours at Embellish are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The store's Web site is embellishboutique.com.
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