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Update on Hamburger Mary's, East Coast Pizza, Nordstrom Rack

It was a tough year for Tampa businesses, with many newer ventures — and even some well-known local establishments — closing their doors.

But even in an extraordinarily tough economy, entrepreneurs continue to cook up big plans. And while some companies are dialing back, a few are expanding.

Here's an update on a few places that made news in 2009:

Hamburger Mary's at Centro Ybor

The kitschy chain announced plans this summer to open a franchise in Centro Ybor. The restaurant opened Dec. 3 with a built-in fan base, thanks to local travelers who have visited one of the eight other Hamburger Mary's in cities like Chicago and West Hollywood, Calif.

The chain bills itself as the only restaurant that actively markets itself to the gay community, though owners say it is welcoming to everyone. The goal is to be outrageous and fun.

"There's a certain amount of name recognition that luckily goes with it," said Mike Higgins, who owns the Centro Ybor location with three partners. "We started our Facebook fan page in August, and we have over 1,000 fans already. (Locals) responded very well."

The restaurant seats 240, including the patio. Higgins plans lots of events, including two New Year's Eve shows featuring champagne and female impersonators at 8:30 and 11 p.m.

"We want to make sure that everybody has fun," Higgins said.

East Coast Pizza at SkyPoint

The Brandon-based pizza restaurant announced in June that it had plans for a third location on the ground floor of SkyPoint downtown. But the space at 777 N Ashley Drive is back on the leasing market after East Coast Pizza owner Aaron Fredricks backed off from his plans in late fall.

It is the second time a planned restaurant for the 1,840-square-foot space has fallen through. A deal to bring in Azteca Mexican Restaurant fell apart about a year ago. The ground floor at SkyPoint is currently home to a Five Guys burger joint, a sushi spot called Rawbar and the Taps beer and wine lounge.

"At this point we are not moving forward" with the East Coast Pizza location, said SkyPoint retail associate Erica Waltermire of CB Richard Ellis. There is interest in the space but no deal yet, she said.

Fredricks could not be reached for comment.

Nordstrom Rack at Walters Crossing

Plans are still in place for Tampa's first Nordstrom Rack, which was announced in August. The off-price version of Nordstrom, which carries discounted and clearance items from the popular department store, is expected to open next fall.

The store will move into the former Circuit City in Walters Crossing at 1702 N Dale Mabry Highway, between Home Depot and Whole Foods. The 45,000-square-foot space still has prominent "for lease" signs in its windows and is listed online as available, but Nordstrom spokesman Colin Johnson said the company has secured a lease with the building's owner, Vornado Realty Trust. Construction has not begun.

"We're expecting to open our doors in fall 2010 and we're really excited about it," Johnson said.

Do you know something that should be everybody's business? E-mail sharonlginn@yahoo.com or call (813) 226-3394.

Update on Hamburger Mary's, East Coast Pizza, Nordstrom Rack 12/24/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 24, 2009 3:30am]
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