TRINITY — The shelves were mostly barren by Monday.
Shoppers swarmed the Sweetbay supermarket at Mitchell Crossings over the past week to cart off heavily discounted merchandise. Bargain hunters also descended on three other Sweetbays in Pasco, and other locations around the Tampa Bay area, for the fire sale at 33 underperforming stores slated for closure.
By Monday morning, the remaining merchandise was 75 percent off.
Not that there was much left.
All of the food had either been sold or taken away, and most aisles had tape across them saying they were closed.
A wall of greeting cards remained, along with a few storefront aisles holding knickknacks and bottles of antacid.
The merchandise went so fast that Sweetbay closed the Mitchell Crossings store Monday afternoon, more than a week ahead of schedule. The Sweetbays at 7431 State Road 54 in New Port Richey and 7325 Gall Blvd. in Zephyrhills also closed Monday. The Sweetbay at 9017 State Road 52 in Hudson is expected to close today.
"We had said (the stores would be closing) on or before Feb. 13, but because inventory levels are gone, all stores will be closing by Wednesday," Sweetbay spokeswoman Nicole LeBeau told the Times.
Pat Dunning, whose family runs American Wood Flooring in the Mitchell Crossings shopping center, was stunned by the stampede of shoppers. He arrived at 8:30 a.m. one morning last week and saw a line of people, filed all the way to the front door of his business at the far end of the shopping center.
They were waiting for the Sweetbay liquor store to open at 10 a.m., with spirits discounted 50 percent.
"People were still waiting," he said.
Similar scenes played out last week at the Sweetbays in New Port Richey and Hudson, where people waited in line outside the liquor stores and filled their carts with bargain buys as the price-slashing began.
Gaston and Bonita Garces popped into the New Port Richey store before it closed Monday, hoping to get their hands on a dessert that only Sweetbay makes. But the bakery and deli at that location were long gone.
"There's nothing in there. It's sad," Mr. Garces said.
The couple, who own Bryght Shyne Cleaning in the Odessa/Land O'Lakes area, said it's ominous when any business closes its doors in the community.
"It makes you think, 'What's going on with the economy?' You hear it's getting better, but is it?" Gaston Garces said.
"And as a business owner you can't help but wonder 'could it happen to me?' " Bonita Garces added.
The closing of an anchor store also means less foot traffic for the other businesses in the plaza, Dunning said.
"It's going to hurt us, there's no doubt about it," he said.