PALMA CEIA — It was bad for furniture stores when the housing market began to suffer, but the outlook for the industry seems to have worsened with consumers tightening their budgets.
For evidence, look no further than South Tampa, where three large showrooms have closed in less than two months.
Gone are two short-lived independent stores, the TOM Furniture store at 2507 S MacDill Ave. and HP Interiors at 616 S MacDill Ave.
Both closed about the same time as the Norwalk Furniture showroom, which had been a fixture for years at 145 S Dale Mabry. Norwalk's parent company filed for bankruptcy in September.
HP Interiors opened in April after an overhaul of the 4,900-square-foot building. It was the second location for owner and interior designer Holly Pequignot, who had opened a similar store on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard three years ago.
HP Interiors filed for bankruptcy protection over the summer, prompting the closing of the North Tampa store. The South Tampa store followed suit in early October.
"It's a sign of the times," said the property's leasing agent, Dave Sarich of the Krauss Organization.
The Bobinac brothers, owners of the TOM Furniture franchise, agree. They brought the Slovenia-based furniture line to Tampa in hopes of capitalizing on the perceived demand for ultramodern furniture to fill the lofts and condos that have cropped up in Channelside and downtown.
But while the furniture was well received, the demand was not as strong as suspected.
"It was bad timing, that's all," said Branco Bobinac. He and brother Darko decided to close their MacDill showroom in September, though the Web site, www.tomfurnitureusa.com, is still up and they will continue to take orders from customers.
More Ethiopian fare
Ethiopian food is suddenly trendy in Tampa.
The city's second Ethiopian-style restaurant opened Oct. 22, less than a year after the first, Queen of Sheba, made its debut on Henderson Avenue.
Teddy Bezabeh and wife Azeb opened Abol Bunna at 3644 W Kennedy Blvd. for lunch and dinner. They aim to attract the don't-want-to-pack-a-lunch crowd with a $7.99 daily lunch buffet.
The restaurant seats about 80 and was recently home to a printing/coffee shop. Abol Bunna serves a variety of Ethiopian and Italian dishes, with a heavy focus on vegetarian meals and marinated beef stews, complemented by traditional coffee service and Ethiopian honey wine.
Why the Italian influence? Thanks to Italy's invasion of Ethiopia in the 1930s, "we were accustomed to eating Italian food growing up," Azeb Bezabeh said.
Hours at Abol Bunna — loosely translated as "first pour from the pot" — are 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Bezabeh said she plans to offer Sunday hours soon.
Sonic to reopen
The Sonic Drive-In at 4411 W Gandy Blvd. has closed, but not for good.
Traffic snarls and delays have hurt business at the Sonic since the massive Gandy Boulevard construction project began in January. The restaurant also was the site of a shooting in July, when Allen Rodriguez, 26, killed himself after shooting two Sonic employees.
The company closed the store in September, but the closing is only temporary, said a spokeswoman. The store — which in 2003 was the first bay area Sonic to open — will reopen once the construction project is complete. The company has not set an exact date.
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