West Marine is staging a grand opening this week for the seventh flagship store in the boating and fishing retailer's collection of 325 locations.
That includes nine free fishing seminars this weekend capped by a 2 p.m. autograph session Saturday with Mike Fourtner from the Discovery Channel reality show Deadliest Catch. Built in an abandoned Linens 'n Things at 2010 Tyrone Blvd. N in St. Petersburg, the store stocks 30,000 types of products, triple the chain's standard stores. The flagship replaced three local West Marine stores in what will be a recurring pattern among the other seven stores in the bay area.
In flagship stores, West Marine dramatically expands the selection of fishing gear, apparel and adds an array of paddleboats, canoes, kayaks and wakeboards. While older stores have fewer than a dozen samples of boating electronics, this one has 100 wired for demos.
The chain picked the spot partly for the 40,000 registered boats within 30 miles, but it's part of a bigger strategy to trade up to vacant big box stores like Borders, Publix and Circuit City.
"Stores like this are the future of West Marine," said Erik Rimblas, regional vice president.