PORT RICHEY — Just three years ago, Target Corp. had plans to double the size of its store near U.S. 19 and Scenic Drive.
But that expansion never happened and, on Tuesday, store officials revealed a new plan: closing the Port Richey location.
The 18-year-old store's last day is Jan. 30, said Tara Isaac, a manager at the store.
The Port Richey closing is one of four nationwide. The list includes locations in Bedford, Ohio; Stone Mountain, Ga.; and Brownsville, Texas.
Hadley Barrows, a spokeswoman for the Minneapolis-based retail giant, said the closures are based on "several years of decreasing profitability" at those locations.
Corporate officials also took into account four other area locations: one at Little Road and State Road 54; one just west of the Suncoast Parkway on State Road 54; one in Wesley Chapel; and a new one in Spring Hill.
"We hope we'll be able to continue to serve them with other locations," she said.
Isaac said the 85 employees at the Port Richey location have the option of transferring to other Target stores.
Barrows said she expects those other locations will absorb nearly all of the Port Richey staff.
Target, which earlier this year laid off 600 employees at its headquarters and closed a distribution center in Arkansas, has seen its profits fall amid the recession. Last month the retailer also pulled out of the Cypress Creek Town Center, selling its plot at State Road 56 and Interstate 75 back to the mall developer for a $750,000 loss.
Though Target is classified as a discount retailer, it also sells trendier items that cash-strapped consumers may view as a luxury. As a Time magazine article noted earlier this year, Walmart has been eating Target's lunch as shoppers have cut back to only necessities: "Can Target reach Walmart's level of excellence? It may have to rethink its mission. Isaac Mizrahi is nice. But now shoppers want to see meat and potatoes."
Walmart stepped up the pressure in west Pasco in March 2008 with the opening of a supercenter on U.S. 19 at Beacon Woods Drive, a couple of miles north of Target.
Losing Target will be yet another huge blow for the Piers shopping mall, which saw one of its other major tenants, Circuit City, close up shop last year.
Already, the strip mall has more vacancies than tenants. It will be left with a Toys "R" Us, Game Stop, Staples and Kazus Sushi.
West Pasco's U.S. 19 businesses, including the chains, have struggled as the nearby neighborhoods have struggled. Gulf View Square mall, which is just south of the Target, has lost some of its better-known tenants, such as Old Navy and Gap, over the last year. Just north of Target, an Outback Steakhouse closed in May.
County planning officials have targeted the corridor, including Gulf View Square, as a potential redevelopment area.
John Ross of Hudson, who was returning to his van after shopping at Target on Tuesday, expressed surprise when told the store was closing. Then he looked around the mall for a moment.
"But after Circuit City closed," he said, gesturing toward the empty space, "I'm not surprised."
Jodie Tillman can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6247.